November 17, 2019 Cartagena, Columbia

Cartagena Skyline

Cartagena Fortress

Cartagena Architecture

Monkeys

Cartagena Anteaters

Emerald Museum

Cartagena, Columbia, with a population of approximately 1,250,000, is a major port founded in 1533 by Spaniard Don Pedro de Heredia. During the colonial era it was a key port for the export of Peruvian silver to Spain and for the import of enslaved Africans.

Due to Cartagena’s tropical location, the climate changes little throughout the year. The average daily high is about 89 degrees and the lows are about 77 degrees. Unfortunately, they also have an average humidity of about 90 percent and 40 inches of rain annually. On this day it was extremely warm and very humid but there was a bit of a breeze which helped to make it tolerable.

Sugar and tobacco are processed in Cartagena as well cosmetics, textiles, fertilizer and leather goods. Colombia’s main exports include manufactured goods, petroleum, coal and coffee. Cartagena has also become popular for plastic surgery, dental treatment and weight loss operations.

We took a city bus tour where we made several stops, getting off the bus and walking for a while before re-boarding the bus. Our first stop was inside the walled city in a residential neighborhood. Being Sunday morning, it was rather quiet, but we were able to experience the beautiful colonial architecture, brightly painted homes and colorful bougainvillea growing everywhere.

The old walled city is very pedestrian friendly with narrow cobblestone streets. Most of the buildings are two stories with large narrow wooden balconies protruding out over the sidewalks reminiscent of those found in New Orleans. The roofs of the buildings are mostly red clay tile and have a very Spanish look to them.

We made a photo stop at the old fortress where many souvenir vendors can be found. They were wanting to sell us hats, silver, jewelry, water, cigars, sunglasses and more. As we walked around the city with our local guide we popped into a market to see the local empanadas, stopped into a church to explore and take photos, we stopped in historic squares to learn about the history and take photos, and stopped to view city sculptures.

Our last stop was at a local emerald museum and jewelry shop called Caribe. Upstairs they have a museum where they tell you about the mining of the emeralds, grading of the emeralds, how they differ from country to country and how they are polished and made into jewelry. Downstairs they had a large showroom with all types of emerald necklaces, pendants, rings and more.

Back at the cruise ship terminal there was a small zoo of sorts including animals like monkeys, anteaters, flamingos and more.

The evening’s entertainment was The Physical Comedy of Jeff Civillico. Jeff’s version of physical comedy included balancing things like a ladder or a deck chair on his chin. He juggled an assortment of unrelated items like a butcher knife with a bowling ball and an apple. He started juggling as a child after seeing a juggler show and began practicing and performing for family and friends at home. For the last ten years he has been performing in Las Vegas at his own show at the Paris Hotel.

After a Frozen-themed dinner in the Animator’s Palate dining room, we attended a show they call Match Your Mate. It is basically the same show as The Newlywed Game. They selected the couple married the least amount of time (2 years), the most amount of time (49 years) and then a couple selected by the applause vote of the audience. It was very entertaining and unbelievable what people will disclose about themselves in front of an audience.

November 16, 2019 Transit the Panama

Panama Canal Fog

Panama Canal Lock

Panama Canal Reservoir Basins

The Panama Canal is an artificial waterway across the Isthmus of Panama connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal was opened in and was one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken. The canal created a huge cost saving short cut for cargo ships allowing them to avoid the southernmost tip of South America.

In order to reduce the amount of excavation work needed to connect the two bodies of water, a system of locks was installed. These locks raise ships 85 feet above sea level to cross the Isthmus and then lower the ships back to sea level. The original locks were 110 feet wide, but in 2016 a new expanded canal allowed transit of today’s largest cargo ships. The new larger locks are 1,400 feet in length, 180 feet wide and 60 feet deep. Today about 14,000 Vessels transit the canal annually. The time that it takes to pass through the canal is approximately 8-10 hours. An average cruise ship pays about $50,000 to transit the canal.

Our estimated time to enter the Cocoli Locks was about 5:00am but when we awoke and looked out the window about 6:00am we had not yet entered the locks. We decided to go up on deck to check out our transit with most of the other ship’s guests. We found that we were delayed entering the locks because there was a large container ship already in the lock most likely from the night before. It was believed that fog and or night fall had delayed the container ship from exiting the lock the night before. These mega container ships only move through the canal during daylight hours and when they can see ahead of themselves according to Captain Puckett.

Due to our transit of the canal and its uncertain timing there were very few activities planned for the day. Folks enjoyed a nearly rain free day on deck of partly sunny skies and warm humid temperatures. The scenery along the Culebra Cut and the Gatun Lake is extremely lush and green due to the large amount of annual rain fall exceeding 100 inches.

It took us until nearly 5:00pm to transit the entire canal and to exit the Agua Clara Locks into the Caribbean Sea.

In the afternoon, Kent took in the movie The Toy Story 4 in 3D. He thought that it was very sweet and cried through the film.

The evening’s entertainment was the Disney movie Maleficent Mistress of Evil with Angelina Jolie. Not sure that I understood much of the movie but there were beautiful scenes, sweet fairies and tons of imagination.

November 15, 2019 Sea Day

This was our fourth day at sea and our third day without internet service. Frustrating not to have internet service but another guest told us that last year they went for five days without service. If this were the case it would have been nice if they would have warned us prior to the cruise.

Our first activity of the day was a cooking class with chef Georg Paullussen where we learned to prepare a modern version of Tuna Tataki Nicoise. Instead of canned tuna the chef used raw tuna that he seared on the edges. This version incorporated soy sauce and a poached egg rather than a hard-boiled egg. The wine sommelier paired the dish with a light pinot noir red wine that was very light.

Next, we attended Captain Ken Puckett’s lecture on transiting the Panama Canal. He updated us on the next day’s schedule where we were scheduled to take on our pilot about 4:30 am and begin our transit about 5:00am. He discussed how different classes of ships are charged for transiting the canal and the fact that our ship was probably paying in excess of $600,000 to transit the canal. He said that cargo ships and auto transport ships might well pay more than $1,000,000 to transit the canal one way.

We then attended a Disney Nature Film on Penguins filmed in the Antarctic. The film followed one male penguin over the course of a year’s time in which he met a mate, had two male offspring. It was narrated in a humorous way and included spectacular videography both on land and under water.

In the main showroom, Jeffrey Epstein held a behind the scenes interview with the actress Heidi Blickenstaff of the Disney movie Freaky Friday. Heidi had played the part on Broadway before making the movie. She was very down to earth with a good sense of humor. The interview was followed by the screening of the movie. We didn’t really know anything about the movie but it was very sweet with life lessons and a lot of heart and humor. The story involves a mother and daughter who swap bodies for a day and live their lives in the other’s body. They see each other’s lives through the eyes of the other and learn a bit about each other.

The evening’s main show was The Physical Comedy of Heath Hyche. Heath uses stand-up comedy, quick change costumes, original music, sound effects, and cleverly constructed props and scenery to take the audience on a journey through his vivid imagination. He is a bit on the manic side and some of his humor falls flat for me but others seemed to enjoy it.

After dinner in Tianna’s Place we attended a game show called Majority Rules. The game involved small teams who answered questions in hopes of finding the most common answer in the room. If your team has the most common answer you receive a point.

Next, we saw a thirty-minute show by the jump rope group called Flight Crew. Much of the act was similar to the main stage show we previously saw, except for different outfits.

November 14, 2019 Sea Day

Gingerbread Cookie Decorating

Pirate Party

Mickey Mouse Flying into the Pirate Party

Pirate Party Fireworks

This Sea Day was all things pirates. Guests were dressed in all stages of pirate attire from t-shirts to full-on custom-made costumes with hair and makeup. There were photo opportunities with Captain Hook and Smee. The Disney Characters who made appearances were wearing Pirate hats and outfits to fit the theme.

Captain Ken Puckett lectured on The New Construction of a New Canal. As cargo ships grew in size, it became obvious that the canal would need to be expanded to accommodate these larger ships. After much research, Panama borrowed the funds to expand the canal. It was decided that instead of renovating the existing locks, they would instead build all new locks next to the existing locks. Existing technology from locks in Europe was used to build the new locks. The new locks use less water to operate and have sliding gates rather than swinging gates. The canal is an extremely expensive to transit but saves companies time and money not having to round the Cape. The cost to build these new locks exceeded eight billion dollars.

Jeffrey Epstein lectured on 10 Magical Years of D23, the Disney Fan Club. Jeffrey showed musical clips from the Disney archives of many performances over the last ten years performed at annual fan conventions.

We attended a craft class where we were able to decorate a gingerbread cookie with frosting and edible decorations before devouring them. Our next event of the day was The Feud which is similar to the television show called the Family Feud. Next, we attended a trivia game called Who Am I where you were given a few facts about a celebrity and had to guess who they were. We were only able to get 11 out of 20 answers correct. One team was able to get all answers correct.

The evening’s entertainment was The Jump Rope Stunts of Flight Crew. This group of young people across America perform for all types of events. Four of their members were onboard to put on a fast-moving show using jump ropes. The performances were very acrobatic and included all things you might be able to do with a jump rope.

After our pirate themed dinner in the Animator’s Palate dining room we headed up to deck 9 outside where there was a pirate party. The party was a high action dance party including a fireworks display.

November 13, 2019 Sea Day

More Disney Characters

This was a quiet sea day filled with Disney Characters making photo appearances at every turn. There are more than 30 Disney Character appearances daily where guests can have photos taken. Guests wait in fairly short lines for their turn to have the ship’s photographers and family or friends to take their photos. The characters are very playful while being photographed, hug the guests and are very patient. No one seems to mind the wait and everyone seems happy to meet the characters, especially the kids. The guests even bring autograph books or photos for the characters to sign. Sometimes not an easy task for some of the characters under large costumes.

Captain Ken Puckett lectured on the US Operation of the Panama Canal prior to the time that we turned it over to Panama.

Jeffrey Epstein, with Disney Corporate, spoke about the Making of One Day at Disney (Disney 23). Photographers around the world documented all things Disney around the globe on one day at the same time. Soon a very large book featuring lots of the photos as well as a documentary about a day of Disney will be released.

The evening’s entertainment was a cast production of Frozen. This stage production took two years to produce the story of Frozen on stage. The scenery is extensive and beautiful. The costumes are creative, unique and extensive like you are at a Broadway production. The most familiar songs from Frozen are included in the stage production as well.

November 12, 2019 Sea Day

Cheese Tasting

Disney Character

Disney Character

Mrs. Incredible

A Toy Story Character

After brunch in the main Triton’s dining room, Sandy and I attended a cooking class with chef Georg Paulussen. Chef Paulussen is now the executive chef at the Disney Polynesian Resort.

The recipe for the day was an Avocado Crab and Lobster Salad. The presentation was of most interest to us. The chef cut the base of an avocado off, and using a spoon, easily removed the pit. Once the pit was removed he stuffed the avocado with the crab and lobster salad before peeling the avocado and rolling it in pistachio nuts. The plate was garnished with an edamame puree and served with tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumbers and fresh edible flowers. We enjoyed a small sampler dish accompanied with a small wine tasting.

Our next stop was a lecture by Captain Ken Puckett on the US Construction of a Canal Across Panama. He showed many photographs about the building of the canal, as well as a couple of videos of ships transiting the canal.

Sandy, Kent and I then attended a cheese seminar in the Animator’s Palate restaurant. There we learned a little about cheddar, muenster, brie and gouda cheeses. Cheese is filled with protein but can also have a lot of calories.

By 1:00pm it was time for lunch in the Cabanas Restaurant on deck nine. This buffet style restaurant offers all sorts of cuisines daily including the popular seafood station where they serve shrimp and crab. They have a large salad bar and a dessert bar, as well as multiple drink stations including complimentary soft drinks.

Later in the afternoon there was a Pixar Pals Party in the lobby. About a dozen Pixar movie characters appeared with the ships singers and dancers accompanying them. They all danced and sang songs with the passengers. Cell phones and cameras were everywhere although I found it difficult to get clear photos with the characters constantly moving.

Next, we stopped into the French Quarter Lounge where The Brace Boys were performing jazz hits. This is the same trio as was performing at Tiana’s Place dining room a couple of nights previously. They were excellent and had a standing room only crowd.

The evening’s entertainment was a ventriloquist by the name of Lynn Trefzger. She had a small boy, a bear and a camel dummy that she worked with. She was very funny and her act was very entertaining.

After Lynn’s show and before dinner we enjoyed a pianist by the name of Bongi Maestro who performs in the Cadillac lounge. On this night he was playing and singing Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles songs. He was very good.

For dinner we were back in Tiana’s Place followed by a late show in the main theater with John Charles. John had performed the evening before using a guitar but for this show he only played Beatles songs that were written to be played on the piano.

November 11, 2019 Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta from the Ship

Puerto Vallarta Beach

Day of the Dead Skeleton

Men Spinning from a Pole on the Beach

View from La Palapa Restaurant

Puerto Vallarta is a Mexican beach resort city and is an international tourist destination. By the 1950’s Puerto Vallarta had begun attracting American writers and artists in search of a retreat from the era of Eisenhower and McCarthy. By 1962 a new airport connected Los Angeles with Puerto Vallarta via a stop in Mazatlán. In 1964 John Huston filmed his movie “The Night of the Iguana” nearby and provided extensive coverage in the US media about the affair of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. This helped put Puerto Vallarta on the map for US tourists.

By 1970 the first harbor was inaugurated making it accessible to cruise ships. Also, in 1970 Richard Nixon met with the Mexican president Gustavo Diaz Ordaz in Puerto Vallarta for treaty negotiations.

The average daily temperature ranges from 70 to 86 degrees with 75% humidity making it a tropical paradise. Today, Puerto Vallarta has become a popular retirement destination for US and Canadian retirees. The population has grown from about 10,000 in the 1950’s to nearly 200,000 today, while the surrounding urban area now totals over 500,000.

For breakfast, Claire, Kent, Sandy and I went to Triton’s restaurant for what they were calling brunch. Brunch meant that you could order breakfast items like the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles or lunch items like sandwiches. While we were there about six staff members came to check on our waiter’s service and the food as Mark had made some comments about the food over the last couple of days. They even had one of the chefs come out and speak with Mark. It was embarrassing how many people came and asked us the same things about the service and the food. I just hope that I have not gotten any of the staff in trouble with my comments about the food and service.

Kent and I took the local city ($1.00 for two) bus from the port into the central district along the Malecon or waterfront. There were still many “Day of the Dead” skeletons along the waterfront set up by local hotels, businesses and organizations. There were also four men doing an unusual performance from a tall pole with four men spinning around the pole on cables as they played the flute.

The weather was very warm and very humid, but along the coast there was a bit of a cool breeze that made it tolerable. We walked south along the waterfront until we reached one of our favorite beach side restaurants called La Palapa Restaurant and Bar. The palapa is a large thatched roof-covered restaurant along the water with many umbrellas, covered tables and chairs out front. We enjoyed the indoor area under the palapa where they have ceiling fans that keep the gentle breeze going. For lunch we enjoyed guacamole and chips, fish tacos on homemade tortillas and a chicken quesadilla. Everything was very tasty and the staff was very attentive.

The evening’s entertainment was titled The Music and Comedy of John Charles. John wandered the audience interacting with the guests about their favorite music. From there he would tell funny antics while he formulated what song he was going to sing. He would then start playing his guitar and singing the song of the guest’s choice. He has a huge range of songs that he knows the words to and has a good voice. He often impersonates the artist, male or female and can sing in a wide range of keys.

For dinner, we were back in the Animator’s Palate Restaurant where the frames on the wall were filled with moving sketches. You can watch the screens as a Disney character is drawn from start to finish. We all had the beef tenderloin which was very good, but the rest of the meal was a bit forgettable.

After dinner we attended a show in the Azure lounge with a comedian by the name of Heath Hyche. Heath is a bit crazy and does a lot of physical comedy running all over the stage, acting out characters and telling stories. Not really my cup of tea but a lot of people in the audience seemed to enjoy him.

November 10, 2019 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

San Juan del Cabo Mission

San Juan del Cabo Mission Interior

Katarina from the Day of the Dead Festival

San Juan del Cabo Art

Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball

Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball

Cabo San Lucas, or Cabo, is a resort city at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula. The population of Cabo San Lucas is approximately 82,000 although with the adjoining San Jose del Cabo they have a population of over 300,000. Cabo is one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations and is known for its beaches and scuba diving.

Cabo is a fairly new city begun as a fishing village. In 1917, an American company built a floating platform to catch tuna. In 1974 the federal government completed the Mexican Federal Highway 1 and developed infrastructure to turn Cabo into a major tourist center. Today the area sees nearly three million visitors a year.

This was a tender port, meaning that we had to board small tender boats (about 50 passengers) to ferry us from the ship, which was anchored off shore, into the harbor. From the harbor Kent and I took a tour called San Jose City Tour where we were taken in an air-conditioned bus about 30 minutes south from Cabo San Lucas to the town of San Jose del Cabo.

San Jose del Cabo has a new-looking central square with concrete pavers stretching a couple of blocks. Newly planted trees have not yet grown enough to provide much shade but there are many park benches waiting for the shade. There is a bandstand and a stage for regular performances for the locals and visitors alike.
From the square you have a great view of the San Jose Mission Church across the street. The interior of the mission is very plain with minimal ornamentation.

The streets surrounding the main square offer numerous restaurants and many souvenir shops and art galleries. Silver jewelry is very popular as are animal forms covered with small colorful beads. Pottery and wooden bowls can also be found in most shops. The town offers American stores like Costco, Walmart, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, McDonalds and more.

Our tour concluded about 2:00pm and we decided to head back to the ship via tender as it was warm and humid and not much new to see. We have been in Cabo several times previously and have explored many of the local shops.

In the afternoon we watched the film the Lion King in 3D in a theater onboard called the Buena Vista Theater. We had not seen the movie before although we seemed to know most of the music from the movie. It was a very sweet movie even though nature is not the kindest.

The evening’s entertainment was a magician by the name of Eric Jones from Philadelphia. Eric was on America’s Got Talent, has performed with Penn and Teller and others. He does mostly sleight of hand magic using cards, coins and wedding rings. Eric is a talented magician and the audience seemed to enjoy his show.

For dinner we dined in Triton’s Restaurant which has a very traditional classic décor. The meal included French traditional dishes like escargot, shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, roasted leg of lamb, Chateaubriand, Crème Brule and so much more.

After dinner we attended the Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball with the singers and dancers, Disney Characters and Mr. and Mrs. Claus. They sang a few holiday songs and snow fell from the ceiling of the lobby. It was a festive occasion.

November 9, 2019 Sea Day

Pluto Drawing

Kent, Claire and Sandy at Dinner

Trio at Tiana’s Place Dinner

This was a day at sea as we made our way south towards our first port of call, Cabo San Lucas. We also turned our clocks forward one hour as we are also moving east along the Baja California coastline. As we traveled south the air temperature was rising as well.

The Wonder has a series called the Animator where you can learn to draw different Disney characters. On this day they were showing us how to draw Pluto and so Mark gave it a try. It is done one step at a time starting with a circle and then adding one line at a time. See the results of Mark’s efforts above.

We attended a morning lecture with Captain Ken Puckett who spoke about the history of the years prior to the building of the Panama Canal. Captain Puckett served in the US Navy and the US Army before serving for 16 years as a Senior Panama Canal Pilot. During his career he piloted over 1,440 merchant and military vessels through the Panama Canal, so he is very familiar with its workings. He has quite a sense of humor and will be giving several lectures over the coming week.

There is a Disney Company employee who is the Director of Corporate Communications onboard by the name of Jeffrey Epstein. He gave a presentation about what is happening with Disney. Jeffrey works to provide consistent messaging to the media, employees, and guests. He also oversees the Disney archives, the Disney Fan Club, the D23 Expo, publications, website and social media. Many of the things Jeffrey spoke of were foreign to us as we are not as big Disney fans as many of the guests onboard and knew very little about Disney activities.

There was a Captain’s Welcome Reception in the lobby where they served drinks and had many photographers taking photos of the guests. It was a formal night and many of the guests were dressed beautifully whole others could be found wearing t-shirts and jeans. Many of the guests, particularly the women, wear Minnie Mouse ears and bows on their heads at all times. They come in all colors from black and white plaid to sequin covered and everything in between. Many of the children are dressed in princess dresses and Disney logo clothes are seen everywhere.

Before dinner we attended the Golden Mickeys, a theatrical show featuring songs and vignettes of many Disney musical shows and characters. There is a cast of singers and dancers onboard who performed in the vignettes and many of the most loved Disney characters made appearances, including Mickey.

For dinner, we ate tonight in Tiana’s Place dining room, which is a New Orleans themed restaurant with a small stage to one side. A trio played a variety of music from the south during dinner and Tiana greeted us at the door and came around to each table to meet the guests. The food has a New Orleans theme like spicy crab dip, Louisiana style chicken, etc. We went right to the cabin after dinner to sleep.

November 8, 2019 San Diego, California

Sail-A-Wave Party

Water Slide

Tree Lighting Ceremony

Tree Lighting Ceremony

Gingerbread House

Midday, we boarded the Disney Wonder cruise ship operated by the Disney Cruise Line. The ship with its 11 decks was completed in 1999 and is decorated in the Art Deco style. There are 875 staterooms accommodating 2,400 passengers and has a crew of 950. On this particular re-positioning cruise there are about 1,800 passengers onboard and only about 275 children. On a typical cruise they usually have nearly 1,000 children.

We traveled with our dear friend, Sandy–otherwise known as Ms. P., and her mother, Claire, who lives in Florida. Claire is 92 and just keeps on going. Good for her.

The ship is very nicely appointed and all of the artwork onboard is related to Disney. We explored the ship’s public rooms which are all beautifully decorated. The ship includes many spaces specially designed for children’s activities, including a large water slide on the top deck of the ship.

After our mandatory life-boat drill, there was a festive sail-a-wave party on the upper deck. Most of the guests attended, singing songs, dancing, drinking and enjoying all of the Disney characters who attended.

The evening’s main stage entertainment was a Filipino acapella group of five young men called Filharmonic. They had been semi-finalists in NBC’s hit musical competition called The Sing Off. They also were featured in Pitch Perfect 2 before becoming a viral sensation after their Late, Late Show appearance. They have wonderful voices and blend well together. The sounds they can make come out of their mouths is amazing.

When we arrived, there was a team of people decorating the public spaces for Christmas. They added many artificial trees and garlands as well as fresh red poinsettias. In the lobby there is a very tall Christmas tree next to an almost life-sized gingerbread house. We attended the tree lighting ceremony where Mickey, Minnie and several other characters came to sing carols and light the tree.

Before dinner we enjoyed a drink in French Quarter Lounge where a duo called the NOLA Duo performed. The man played the trumpet, bass and violin while the young woman with a wonderful voice sang a variety of vintage melodies. At different times of the evening they perform different types of music from the blues to the top hits.

For dining, Disney uses a dining rotation between three main restaurants each with a different theme. Our dinner on this night was in the dining room called the Animator’s Palate. The restaurant walls are covered with pencil sketches of Disney characters and stories in black and white. The ceiling has painting palates with colored lights used as the paint colors. The columns in the room are shaped like paint brushes and the walls are covered with framed television screens. Throughout the evening the light colors change around the room and the television screens project altering photos of black and white pencil sketches to full color renderings and photographs of everything Disney. We went to bed shortly after dinner.