We departed the ship on a shuttle bus from Galveston, Texas about 9:30am bound for the George Bush International Airport in Houston. The ride in light to heavy showers took about 90-minutes. Ms. P. and her mother Claire headed to Ft. Meyers where she lives and Kent and I headed to San Diego. Everyone made it home safely and agreed that we all had an enjoyable time on our first Disney ship.
Category Archives: 2019 Disney Panama Canal Cruise
November 21, 2019 Sea Day
This was our last day onboard the Disney Wonder and it was a sea day as we made our way to Galveston, Texas. Our first event of the day was the movie Aladdin in 3D from 2019. We had not seen it before and since we had the opportunity we thought we should take advantage of it.
After the movie we enjoyed lunch at Triton’s Restaurant with our new friends April, Jeremy and Jonathan.
In the afternoon we began our packing as we watched the original movie Frozen on the cabin TV. This was in anticipation of the screening of Frozen II which was scheduled to be released the following day. The ship was given permission to show the movie at 11:00pm prior to the official release on land at midnight.
The evening’s entertainment was a production show by the Wonder cast of singers and dancers called Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic. The show started with a mother tucking her daughter into bed and the following dreams that the daughter has with many of the Disney Characters. Each scene was a snippet from a Disney movie like Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Aladdin and more. The audience was packed and everyone cheered when their favorite character appeared.
At dinner in Tianna’s Place they had a New Orleans style Mardi Gras party with music, dancing and colored beads. For dessert they served beignets to everyone which are famous in New Orleans and are similar to donuts. They were served with an espresso sauce.
After dinner there was a final meet and greet called “Til We Meet Again” with some of the Disney characters in the lobby atrium. Since most of the folks were waiting in line for the screening of the movie Frozen II, very few folks were in the lobby for the meet and greet. Mark took advantage of the opportunity and had his photo taken with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto.
The Frozen II movie was screened in 3D in one theater and a regular screening in the main Walt Disney Theater. Both theaters were nearly filled to capacity with adults and children of all ages wanting to see the movie. The movie was beautifully done but the songs did not seem as catchy as in the first movie. We’ll have to see how it does at the box office and what songs might become famous from this movie.
November 20, 2019 Cozumel, Mexico
Cozumel, with a population of about 65,000, is an island 11 miles off the coast of mainland Mexico and 50 miles south of Cancun. The island is approximately 33 miles long and 11 miles wide. The Mayans have lived on Cozumel island since 300 AD, and are most noted for their complex systems of mathematics and astrology. Cozumel is an extremely popular destination for cruise ships with about 35 ships arriving per week for a six-month period of winter. The powdery white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and protected environments for snorkeling and scuba diving keep guests coming back again and again. In summer the heat, mosquitos and high humidity keep most of the guests away.
We took a shore excursion to see the highlights of Cozumel. First, we drove into the interior of the island where most of the land has been overgrown with vegetation like a jungle. There we visited the ruins of an old Maya Cultural center called San Gervasio dating back to the Early Classic period from 300 – 400 AD. The ruins had been covered by the jungle until they were discovered and opened to the public in 1982. Even today, only about 20% of the known ruins have been uncovered and are open to the public. Here we saw many remnants from homes and gathering places of the time.
Our next stop was at the Museum of Mexican Traditional Arts. Here we saw many local arts like paintings, pottery, needlepoint, embroidery and sculpture. Much of the Mexican art is very colorful and brings a smile to your face.
Outside of the Museum in the gardens there were many scale models of ancient Mayan temples and pyramid-like structures made of stone. Also, outside in the garden was a local dance demonstration performed on a tall pole. The pole has four ropes hanging from the top with four men hanging upside down from each rope and playing a wooden flute instrument as they “flew” around the pole.
In the museum garden a Mexican lunch was prepared for us including beef and pork soft tacos, refried beans, cheese quesadillas, chips, guacamole and salsa and of all thing’s French fries.
The Mayan Cacao Company or Chocolate Museum and factory was our next stop. At the museum we learned how they grow the cacao plants, pick the fruit, harvest the beans, dry the beans, roast the beans and finally grind and make the chocolate. In the early days of chocolate it was consumed as a drink. They used allspice, cinnamon and honey to flavor the otherwise bitter cacao beans. Sugar could be added to sweeten it. We had samples of the roughly ground chocolate, hot chocolate and finally the chocolate bars they sell in the gift shop.
Back onboard the Wonder we attended the Crew Talent Show. The show was filled with crew members from all over the ship who sang, hip-hop danced, tapped, painted and showed photographs. Some of them are very talented and it was one of the better crew talent shows we have ever seen.
For dinner in the Animator’s Palate dining room we all created our own animated characters. They gave each of us a sheet of paper with pre-printed blocks for each part of our characters body. You used colored markers to draw whatever character you wanted. They then scanned the sheets into a computer program that animated the characters and showed them on the screens all over the room. It was a very unique and interesting experience to see your drawing come to life.
After dinner in the main theater Heidi Blickenstaff performed for an hour or so. This performance of hers was mostly non-Disney songs. She is quite a talker and had many tales to tell about her life and career which was fun. She is so down to earth and her singing is so beautiful and looks so effortless.
November 19, 2019 George Town, Cayman Islands
George Town, Cayman Islands, was named after the Carib Indian for marine crocodile. Caymanians are proud of their sea-going heritage, reflected in “The Wreck of the Ten Sails.” The story tells of a shipwreck whose crew, in trying to worn other ships away from the reef, instead drew 9 more vessels onto it but not a single life was lost. In gratitude King George III declared the Cayman Islands forever exempt from taxes, which turned into a billion-dollar gift. As there are no income, property, capital gains or corporation taxes, Cayman has international appeal. Visitors flock to the Cayman Islands for banking, beaches and scuba diving and tax and duty-free shopping. Driving is on the opposite side of the street as compared to the US so you have to be careful when crossing the streets.
This is a tender port since there is no dock large enough to accommodate a cruise ship. On this day there were two other large Carnival Cruise ships in port so we were required to anchor several miles south of town, tender to the nearest dock and take shuttle busses into town. The drive into town was through sparsely developed land where many new condo projects were being constructed along the beach.
The town of about 65,000 has a small downtown along the harbor where there are mostly retail shops and restaurants. The majority of the shops either feature jewelry or watches of one brand or another, or souvenirs.
We wandered the waterfront shops and plazas but, in the end, found nothing we needed to take home with us. We retraced our steps taking the shuttle bus back to the dock and boarding the tender boat back to the ship. We lunched with Sandy and Claire in the Cabanas.
In the afternoon, Kent enjoyed watching the Impeachment hearings on MSNBC.
The evening’s entertainment was a percussion and comedy group of four young men called Junnk. They use a stage full of trash bins, bottles, ladders and drain pipes to create a lively, funny and very fast paced show. They also did a bit of singing and a lot of audience participation. They were talented but not really my idea for entertainment.
After the main show we attended a talk with Broadway actor Jacob ben Widmar. Disney has Broadway stars who come onboard for 8-12 weeks at a time to participate in the cast shows. Jacob played Olaf, the snowman, in the ship’s production of Frozen. I loved the Olaf character and thought he stole the show. Jacob took us on a walk through his career and offered advice to people who wanted to be a Broadway star. Have a back-up plan and a good support system because it is a tough business.
After dinner in the Triton’s Restaurant we attended the game show Feud, a similar version to the TV game show Family Feud. That was followed by a comedian by the name of Don Friesen from Southern California. Don captures the irony of parenting, marriage and everyday absurdities. He had some clever routines and the audience seemed to enjoy his performance.
Every night when we return to our cabin we find an animal on our bed made from a blanket and towels along with Ghirardelli Chocolate squares. On this night there was a penguin reading the daily program.
November 18, 2019 Sea Day
It was Mickey’s 91st birthday and so each guest was given a commemorative button to honor this special occasion. The thing that we found unusual was that there were no special events for the occasion, no birthday cake and no Happy Birthday song.
This was a sea day as we traveled from Cartagena, Columbia, to our next port of call at George Town, Cayman Islands. We were lucky enough to have internet service restored after nearly five days without service.
Our first activity was a cooking class with chef Georg Paulussen from Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The days recipes were desserts called Spaghetti Ice Cream and Ice Cream Pizza. The spaghetti ice cream involved pressing vanilla ice cream through a ricer to extract long, thin strands of ice cream similar to spaghetti. Once the ice cream is placed in the bowl, the chef used a strawberry and raspberry puree as sauce over the pasta. For cheese he used grated white chocolate and mint leaves to represent the basil leaves you might put on a pasta dish.
The ice cream pizza was created using a thin cookie sheet of sponge cake or white cake to begin. The strawberry and raspberry puree was then covered over the cake like a sauce. Next, he added both whipped cream and ice cream in small scoops to represent the cheese. He then added fresh fruits like pineapple, sliced strawberries for peperoni and cherries for olives, etc. They then served up the pizza for everyone to taste. It was a pretty tasty dessert but a lot of work to make.
Our next activity was a lecture by Captain Ken Puckett on WWII Axis Forces Plans to Destroy the Panama Canal. He showed many photos and diagrams of one of Japan’s super deluxe submarines. This submarine was extremely large, carried three planes with foldable wings that would be put inside the submarine and traveled faster than any submarines that the US had at the time. Japan wanted to destroy the canal to slow down the US connection from east to west coast and slowing the war effort.
At lunch time they had a boat building bash at Goofy’s Pool on deck 9. About forty sets of guests created boats out of found objects onboard the ship. The boats were set sail in the pool to make sure they could float. It was also a requirement that the boats could handle the weight of one full can of coke. Members of the officers staff onboard judged the boats on creativity, floatability, and how they fit the Disney theme. Many of the vessels were very creative and ranged in all sizes from six inches in diameter to the size of a hula hoop.
Kent attended a tour of the ship’s art onboard, all of which is Disney related in some way. There are many sketches and photographs from Disney characters, films, theme parks and ships. There is a mosaic created from Disney stories in one of the main dining rooms.
The evening’s entertainment was The Vocal Talents of Heidi Blickenstaff who starred as Ursula in The Little Mermaid on Broadway. She also starred in Disney’s Theatrical world premier of Freaky Friday as well as the Disney Channel Original Movie of the same name. Heidi sang many numbers from her Broadway shows, the movie Freaky Friday and several non-Disney songs like New York, New York. She has a very good sense of humor and seems very down to earth.
After dining in Tianna’s Place, we attended a game show called Snippets. In the game there are two teams of three who compete against each other to recognize short sound bites. If you correctly identify the sound clip–like a TV show theme song–your team receives a point. If you get the answer wrong, your fellow team can steal the point if they can identify the sound bite.
Following the game show, Jeff Civillico performed another comedy and juggling act in the Azure Lounge. Having performed over 1,000 shows as a headliner on the Las Vegas Strip he has an easy interaction with the audience. He seems to enjoy the audience participation which most often leads to humorous moments. On this night he managed to escape from a straight jacked while balancing on a unicycle.
Some Observations: Of the 1800 people on board, most are Disney fanatics. They know movies, characters and other Disney facts. We are less knowledgeable and are learning a lot. Many women wear Mickey ears and Disney dresses, while other people wear Disney-themed T-shirts and use other Disney items, like back packs, notebooks, etc. Many passengers are older, but kids at heart. They love Disney! There are Disney-related activities for various age groups of kids, as well as adults. Disney music plays on the sound system all over the ship….it makes you think there is no evil in the world….this is a truly happy place!
We have met three other California passengers from the Simi Valley area: Jeremy, Jonathan and April. They have been on two other Disney cruises and are enjoying this one also. We hope to connect with them in the future. Jeremy and Jonathan work for the Department of Defense and are in their twenties and thirties, respectively.
November 17, 2019 Cartagena, Columbia
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
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
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
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.