April 22 to May 9, 2003 - Panama Canal Cruise

We had taken many cruises, but we saved one for when we had slowed down and that was a Panama Canal cruise.   The Panama Canal cruise we chose was on the Celebrity Summit and would take 14 days, 4 port days, one day transiting the canal, and 8 of them at sea.  It is the eight days at sea that we needed to slow down for, and we felt ready.  Not that the cruise lines can't keep you busy at sea, but in our working life we were always on the go and needed to slow down.  This was our fourth Celebrity cruise but the first one on the class of ships the Summit was part of, their newest and largest ships.

We flew to Fort Lauderdale on the 22nd and they took us to the Embassy Suites on Florida A1A, not far from the Hyatt we had stayed at in 1997 after another cruise.  We tried to get into the Hyatt again, but Celebrity had all its rooms at that hotel booked.  We were staying three nights so we could have a chance to see the city and area.  We immediately noticed that Chuck's Steakhouse was across the street, we had eaten here in 1997 and at another Chucks on Maui and liked it.  That is where we had dinner and it was again good.  Then we went to bed, hoping to get used to Eastern Time.

In the morning we looked at our "view":

But we could see the cruise ship terminal with a Holland America cruise ship in port.  We have sailed on Holland America before, in fact in 1997 that is who we cruised with out of Fort Lauderdale.

The Embassy Suites has a full breakfast buffet for their guests, so we only had to worry about lunch and dinner.

We wanted to go to Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall, a huge place, since we needed a collapsible suitcase.  A cab/limo costs more than a rental car, so we got a rental car.  They wanted to charge us extra for two drivers so Diane drove:

We went to Sawgrass Mills and bought a really nice duffel bag and some other small items.  We also noticed that there was a Wolfgang Puck Cafe there and tried it for lunch, we had never tried one of his places before.  It was very nice, we will go back if we visit Sawgrass Mills again.  We toured around, here is Fort Lauderdale beach where you can see ships on the Atlantic:

We turned in the rental car and arranged to take an Everglades tour the next day in the morning.  We walked up the street and tried another place we had liked in 1997, Bravo, an Italian place and it was very good again.  In the morning a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was in the cruise terminal:

In the morning we took the Everglades tour, here is the web page on that tour.

It was still morning, we decided to go to Los Olas Boulevard and see what we found, it was a mile or so and we walked.   This is Florida in April, it was hot and we were stupid but we made it.  Here are some nice hibiscus on the way:

The canal at Los Olas was shaded so we had lunch and decided to take a canal tour.  Here is the web page for that tour.

We got to watch the Royal Caribbean cruise ship leave:

We tried the Mexican place close to the hotel for dinner, it was not worth reporting on.

The 25th was cruise day and we looked out of the hotel and there was the Celebrity Summit ("X" on stack) and in front of it was the Cunard Queen Elizabeth II:

We could not board until afternoon so we had breakfast, leisurely packed and put our suitcases with the front desk while we checked out.  For lunch we went next door to a Thai restaurant that was decent, but not worth reporting on.  Then we came back to the hotel for our shuttle to the cruise ship.  There had been a problem, two different employees had booked the shuttle and it was full.  The hotel called us a cab and paid the way including the tip.  We boarded the ship, which the cruise lines call "embarkation" and here is our cabin as we unpacked, it was about 1:45PM:

Our first day on the ship as we left Fort Lauderdale.

April 28th on Aruba, snorkeling and shopping.

April 30th transiting the Panama Canal.

Sea days were relaxing, only because we wanted them to be.  They had activities going including a Survivor game, so you could be as busy as you wanted to be.  You could also eat about any time and any amount, but we kept this under control.  We would normally have breakfast and lunch at the buffet instead of the formal restaurant.  In the afternoon they had an informal afternoon tea and we often had something at it.  For dinner we normally went to the formal dining room and enjoyed our table mates.   Most nights before dinner Bill, and a couple times Diane, tried one of the fancy martinis.  But on the first formal night, there were three formal nights on this cruise, we tried the $25/each Normandy Restaurant for dinner.   It was wonderful, they took your dessert order with the meal because they made the dessert for you based on what else you had ordered to complement the main dinner.  Bill had some wine with this dinner, it was not cheap.  This was a five star meal, but we only needed to do it once.

We would also look at the sea while traveling and sometimes would see something, on May 1 we saw this island and some birds:

About our table mates, it was a good group.  It was all couples and the man in each case was a trained engineer, in our case both of us are engineers.

May 2 in Costa Rica.

We had more sea days and then we docked at Acapulco, Mexico on May 5th.

May 7 we stopped at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

A picture gallery and some text of our life on the Summit.

May 9th we disembarked at San Diego and flew home.  Evita was glad to see us and we were glad we took the cruise, we really enjoyed it.

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