Panama Canal Cruise

April 2007

We spent three days in Ft. Lauderdale. Cruises from Fort Lauderdale depart year-round. Fort Lauderdale lies about 30 minutes north of Miami on Florida's lower Atlantic Coast. It is about five hours from Jacksonville, FL, and four hours from Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL. Fort Lauderdale is sometimes known as the "Venice of America" because of its expansive and intricate canal system. In addition to its museums, beaches and nightlife, Fort Lauderdale is home to a large indoor/outdoor flea market and the site of the world's largest drive-in movie theater. The International Swimming Hall of Fame is located on Fort Lauderdale beach and houses a large aquatic complex as well as a museum, theater and research library. We spent a lot of time shopping.

Aruba: Aruba is an island of contrasting terrain, from its white-sand shoreline to its cactus-dotted interior. The charming Dutch island is known for its superior snorkeling and duty-free shopping. We toured the island and did some shopping.

We went through the Panamo Canal. The Panama Canal is both an engineering masterpiece and a natural wonder. Connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the passageway crosses the huge, man-made Gatun Lake and the amazing Gaillard Cut, blasted out of solid mountainside. The great locks raise and lower your ship along a 50-mile waterway -- sometimes with just inches to spare on either side.

We stopped in Costa Rica. The tropical city of Puerto Caldera in the province of Puntarenas is located on Costa Rica's western coast and is an entry point for San Josť. Excursions to San Jose usually include a visit to the opera house, the crafts village of Moravia and a privately owned ranch. Some tours go past San Jose into the Poas Volcano National Park. Trips to Sarchi, known for its crafts, are also offered. But we just tured the area and shopped.

We sailed to Huatulco, Mexico. This newly developed resort area is near the village of Puerto Escondido. It has nine bays with beautiful beaches that are among the cleanest, safest and least crowded on the west coast, and big waves that are great for body surfing. We took a taxi up the mountain from the beach to the town and enjoyed the day there. Great people - warm and welcoming and good shopping.

Next we sailed to Acapulco. This golden city is filled with a festive air. Acapulco is famed for its daredevil cliff divers who plunge from the 130-foot-high cliffs of La Quebrada and we took a tour through the town and then watched the divers. Popular excursions include glass-bottom boat tours, golfing, parasailing and colorful Mexican fiesta shows. Many tourists are content to lounge on one of the city's spectacular beaches.

We sailed to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. El Arco, a rock archway carved by the surf, dominates the harbor of Cabo, which lies at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula. Glass-bottom boat rides, snorkeling excursions and deep-sea fishing trips are popular in Cabo. Or, shop at the pier's souvenir market or relax on a beautiful beach. Small-ship cruises depart from Cabo San Lucas and sail through the Sea of Cortez.