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Old 01-14-2013, 01:30 PM   #16
dvandkq
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Day 0 - Seattle to Long Beach, California

We left Seattle early in the afternoon of December 8th. Our Alaska Airlines direct flight made getting to Southern California easy.


John checks out the aircraft emergency procedures card

Arriving at Long Beach made getting to Southern California even easier, as the airport is small and simple and rarely crowded.

We obtained all of our bags - except for my garment bag which I left on the luggage carousel. The "Best Western Long Beach" shuttle van soon arrived and took us to the Best Western Long Beach, our home for the night before the cruise.

While checking in at the hotel, my wife's cell phone rang. It was Alaska Airlines calling to let us know we'd left my garment bag behind on the luggage carousel. We were able to cajole the shuttle driver into making another round-trip to the airport to retrieve the garment bag containing my nice clothes for the formal and semi-formal nights. On the way back from the airport, we were able to get the driver to stop at the In-N-Out Burger along the way - a requirement of any trip to Southern California, no matter how abbreviated!

Once checked in, fed, and organized, we went to a nearby liquor store to buy some much-needed cruise supplies. After that errand, a bunch of excited people tried their best to get a good night's sleep the night before the fun really started!
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Old 01-14-2013, 01:58 PM   #17
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Day 1 - Leaving Los Angeles

Sunday, December 9th found us waking up in the Long Beach Best Western hotel. After a continental breakfast at the hotel, we packed up and caught a 10:30 AM shuttle ride from the hotel to the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal at Pier 93, right under the Vincent Thomas Bridge.


Riding the van to the cruise terminal!

This is the stereotypical place to board a cruise ship in Los Angeles, as it was the home port for Princess Cruise's "Pacific Princess", a.k.a. as "The 'Love Boat".

This was our first Disney Cruise Line cruise, and we noticed the subtle differences from the beginning.

Friendly staff with "Mickey Hand" gloves directed us to our check-in location. Everyone was always happy and always smiling. The magic began the moment we stepped out of the shuttle van!

Check-in was quick and easy. We were then guided to a large waiting area, where passengers would board in groups. We arrived at the terminal shortly after 11 AM, and the check-in process and security screening had us ready to board by 11:45. While waiting to board, we took the opportunity to register John with the Kid's Club program and also got some photos with Minnie!



Not long after, our group was called and it was time to board the 'Disney Wonder'! As we waited in line to board, there was another photo opportunity...



Friends had done a Mexican Riviera cruise aboard the 'Wonder', also leaving Los Angeles, and they advised us once aboard to find a spot on Deck 9, sit down, and get something to eat - so we did - finding our first delicious meal at "Goofy's Galley", where they always had delicious wraps, sandwiches, panini, fruit, and salads.



We quickly noticed that some of the crew wore outlandish uniforms.



We were also exposed to the cross-pollination of Disney characters!



After a relaxing lunch, we decided to see if our stateroom was ready - and it was! There was a loud noise outside, so I went to investigate. It turned out it was the pump on the fuel barge, filling our tanks for the long journey.



View of the Vincent Thomas Bridge from the 'verandah' on our stateroom.



After getting things squared away in our stateroom, it was time to explore our new surroundings.


The "Lobby Atrium".


"Mickey's Pool"


"Goofy's Pool"


"Quiet Cove Pool"


The crew's pool and deck area


The ship's "Builder's Plate"


As we get closer to 5 PM - our departure time - the engines are brought on-line to give us the power we'll need.


Time for a Bon Voyage party!


Shore-side staff give us the four-fingered salute!


The 'Goodyear Blimp' comes to see us off!


We pass the USS Iowa as we sail out of San Pedro harbor.


Leaving Los Angeles


Leaving Los Angeles


Ship's funnel as we're sailing out into the Pacific Ocean


The Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Pilot departs the ship as we enter the Pacific Ocean.


'Stich' is our first "towel creation" found upon our return to the stateroom!

John's favorite part of his day: Exploring the Oceaneer's Lab.
John's favorite food of his day: Turkey/cranberry sandwich from "Goofy's Galley".
Left Long Beach Best Western at 10:30 AM for the 20 minute drive to the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal 93 in San Pedro. Checked in and waiting to board by 11:30.
Pictures with Minnie in the terminal waiting area. John enjoyed seeing everyone wearing their various "Mickey Ears" in the terminal. Boarded around 12:20 PM. Went straight to Deck 9 for lunch at "Goofy's Galley". Hung around top deck until around 2, when our room was ready. Luggage hadn't arrived yet, but unpacked carry-ons and started settling in.
Hermie our House Elf had brought a Christmas Tree for our stateroom, and there were birthday decorations for Kathleen as well.
Continued exploring ship until Bon Voyage party and departure from cruise terminal at 5 pm, which we observed from Deck 10.
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Alaska, August 2013, Disney Wonder
Transatlantic, May 2015, Disney Magic

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Old 01-14-2013, 02:14 PM   #18
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Day 2 - At sea


We awoke to a spectacular sunrise over Baja California.



With a day at sea, we had lots of time to explore the ship and become acquainted with our home for the next two weeks.

Every summer, we love to go to a music festival held at a private campground and resort in Northwest Oregon. The festival grounds are always swarming with peacocks, and thus peacocks are a favorite bird of ours. The venue is most famous for the albino peacocks roaming the grounds, so when we found paintings of a white peacock and a "regular" peacock in the forward stairway, we knew we'd found a special place just for us!





View from the stern as we sail south into Mexican waters.


Occasionally, we were able to see the coast of Baja California.




Princess Ariel has a special relationship with ships and the sea.


Disney did not disappoint when it came to Christmas decorations aboard our ship!






Hanging out in the windows along Route 66 (Deck 3)


Daisy Duck!


Sailor Goofy!


Captain Mickey!


Fiesta Goofy!


Fiesta Mickey!

Morning lecture by Capt. Kenneth Puckett, retired Senior Panama Canal Pilot in the 'Walt Disney Theater" on the early history of the Panama Canal region.
Saw characters, explored the ship, and hung out by the pools.
John's favorite food - cheese pizza from 'Pinocchio's Pizza".
John's favorite part of his day - playing in the pools, on the water slide, and seeing the ventriloquist in the evening show in the 'Walt Disney Theater'.
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Old 01-14-2013, 03:12 PM   #19
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Day 3 - Cabo San Lucas

We awoke on Day 3 with the ship much closer to shore than the day before, as we were approaching Cabo San Lucas.








Pacific Ocean on the left, Sea of Cortez on the right




Cabo San Lucas dead-ahead!


Cabo doesn't have a pier for cruise ships, so we must use tenders to go ashore.


We can't be too far from the U.S., as we can see a Costco...


...a Wal-Mart...


...and Sam's Club from the ship.


Heading down the gangway to our tender for the short trip to the harbor.


Tenders allow you to get away from the ship, which makes for great photos!


Pulling in to the Cabo San Lucas harbor


Tour boat for the first part of our harbor tour/city tour excursion


Enjoying our harbor tour!




Shortly after rounding the point, we encountered three California Gray Whales!






After the harbor tour, we returned to the port and boarded buses for the short ride to the "Sunset Da Mona Lisa" restaurant for the view of the harbor from the restaurant






Heading back to the ship after a fun day ashore in Cabo San Lucas!


Preparing to come alongside the Wonder's folding tender dock


So long, Cabo San Lucas!

Hot weather arrives!
There were dolphins jumping in our wake prior to arriving in the harbor.
We anchored out and took a tender ashore.
Did a boat tour of the bay and out to Los Arcos.
We found three whales off the cape. We followed the California Gray Whales for about a mile before slowly returning to the harbor in Cabo. Whale in Spanish = "ballena".
After return to harbor, boarded bus for 30 min drive to "Mona Lisa Sunset Bar & Grill" restaurant for refreshments and photos.
Then drove back to harbor and tendered back to the 'Disney Wonder'.
Pat & Karin stayed in Cabo for a couple hours to poke around the harbor area before returning to the ship.
The last tender arrived 15 minutes after our scheduled departure time. The last person off the last tender appeared highly intoxicated, and had to be brought aboard with the assistance of several crew members. We heard from Capt. Puckett that on a normal cruise there would be one ship's doctor, but he heard there were two aboard this cruise due to the number of accident-prone kids aboard.
John's favorite food: Mickey Bar
John's favorite part of his day: Playing in the 'Mickey's Pool' water slide and in "Goofy's Pool".
Today John received his 'Panama Canal Pilot's Pin" from Capt. Puckett.
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Old 01-15-2013, 11:05 AM   #20
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Day 4 - Puerto Vallarta

Day Four of our 14-day cruise took us to Puerto Vallarta. Puerto Vallarta is one of my favorite cities in Mexico, primarily because there are large parts of the city where one can get lost and forget one is in a tourist town.

The Puerto Vallarta cruise terminal isn't one of those places. The Wal-Mart across the street from the dock proves the point. If you want to experience the real Puerto Vallarta, you're not going to be able to do it from a cruise ship. Fly to PV and spend a week there. Heck - I need a week there just to hit all my favorite PV restaurants!

Knowing the cruise terminal was a long walk or a harrowing taxi ride away from the Malecon and the "Old Puerto Vallarta" we love, we decided on a Port Adventure not unique to Puerto Vallarta - a "Signature Dolphin Swim Experience" with Vallarta Adventures. We couldn't have been happier with our decision!

We boarded a bus a short walk from the ship for the 15 mile drive to the "Vallartas Adventures" dolphin facility in Nuevo Vallarta. Puerto Vallarta is in the State of Jalisco, and Nuevo Vallarta, while a suburb of Puerto Vallarta, is in the neighboring state of Nayarit. There is a military checkpoint at the border between the two. While the soldiers only glanced at the vehicles passing by, the traffic jam turned the 15 mile ride into an hour-long crawl.

Once we arrived at the facility, the staff let us know that our late arrival wouldn't deduct time spent at our adventure. They immediately got our minds off the frustrating bus ride and on track to have fun. I had some reservations about a dolphin swim experience. I was worried that the dolphins wouldn't have adequate facilities, or that they'd be over-worked tourist attractions. I was instantly pleased with what I saw. The dolphins have an enormous tank/pool in which to live and play and work. The handlers were only assigned to two dolphins each, and it was obvious that the handlers loved the dolphins just as much as the dolphins loved their handlers. The dolphins were eager to play, and it was obvious they enjoyed the play and interaction with people.

The dolphins - and the staff - were equally adept at soothing the concerns and fears of our seven year-old son and our seventy-something year-old mothers. The dolphins were friendly, loved to be pet, loved to show off for people, and seemed to enjoy their work.

I was also concerned as I anticipated trying to capture the experience on camera. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. There were two Vallartas Adventures staff photographers shooting our group of five, and the resulting photos and video are spectacular. We had to buy the all-inclusive photo package (I think it was $250), but when you split the cost among the five guests, the per-person cost isn't that outrageous. We think the proof is in the photos


Sailing in to Banderas Bay


Breakfast at the 'Beach Blanket Buffet' as we pull into Puerto Vallarta


Having breakfast at the stern of the ship, we had planned on missing most of our entrance into the Puerto Vallarta harbor. We were pleasantly surprised when the ship turned around and backed in to the harbor! Now we had a front-row seat for our arrival in Puerto Vallarta!




The 'Carnival Splendor' was stuck in port with engine trouble. We heard that the ship had to stay-over as repairs were made, and this voyage had to skip a planned port call in Cabo San Lucas.


Our dock - with the Wal-Mart across the street. The mall on the left has a Starbucks. My mother-in-law made the trek for a latte and the free Wi-Fi to check in on her business.


Puerto Vallarta's finest, hard at work in front of the cruise terminal.


The dock in Puerto Vallarta.


Leaving the ship for our shuttle ride to our dolphin adventure!


Getting ready to jump in with the dolphins!


Our friends for the next hour and a half!


First the dolphins swim around you. They get familiar with you, and you get familiar with them. They love to be rubbed in the right spots - just like people! We still argue over what their skin feels like to the touch. Wet rubber, wet velvet, wet velvety-rubber, wet rubbery velvet... the list goes on!


Yes - you actually do get to ride on the dolphins! First, you grab their dorsal fins, hang on, and enjoy the ride.


The other way to "ride" a dolphin is when they swim on their backs. You just grab their pectoral fins like handlebars, hang on, and enjoy the ride!


After the in-pool experience, the dolphins get to play and show-off.



After the experience, there was a delicious Mexican buffet lunch provided as part of the Port Adventure. We reminisced about our swim over excellent cheese enchiladas.


Then it was time to head back to the ship. The Carnival ship was still in port when we left.


Leaving Puerto Vallarta...


John & Capt. Puckett watch the Puerto Vallarta Pilot depart the 'Wonder'.



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Old 01-15-2013, 11:26 AM   #21
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Day 5 - At sea

After back-to-back port days in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, we began the long journey south towards Panama. Since long before the trip, I had been looking forward to four consecutive days at sea. I was not disappointed! We came to love days at sea more than days in port. Days at sea were non-stop fun, excitement, and adventure - especially for our son. Days in port - especially for our son - were a bunch of "hurry up and waits" - hurry up and wait for the port adventure to leave the ship, hurry up and wait for the bus, hurry up and wait for the tender ride, etc. "At-sea" days had none of that. We could lounge around the pools. We could explore the ship. We could go to every character appearance we wanted. John could spend lots of time in the "Oceaneer's Lab", which he loved. Mom and dad could have spa days and dinner dates at Palo... There's so much to do aboard the ship!


Sunrise the morning after Puerto Vallarta




Dolphins playing in our wake


Character breakfast in the Parrot Cay dining room


Another one of the photos I'm sure Disney wants to buy from me...


It's okay to goof off at the table!












The morning of every at-sea day, there was a lecture about some aspect of the Panama Canal.


The lectures were given by Capt. Kenneth Puckett, who retired after 16 years as a Senior Panama Canal Pilot. He and his lovely wife stayed in Stateroom 5122, next door to us. They couldn't have been better neighbors - Capt. Puckett and John became quick friends.


We passed ships big...


...and small. I was amazed at how far out these tiny fishing boats came out to sea. Often we'd be out of sight of land, but still we'd pass tiny boats like this every couple of miles.


Passing Acapulco


Day Five was also a 'Formal Night', and an opportunity for pictures with the captain.






Everyone got dressed up!









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Old 01-15-2013, 11:28 AM   #22
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Great pictures! I didn't see the blimp! Guess I should have been paying attention. Looks like you guys had a blast. We did a similar letter to DCL, but wrote it that last night and submitted it with our survey. Hopefully they will change/improve a few of the things. Time to bring it back to being as magical as it was!

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Old 01-15-2013, 11:53 AM   #23
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Day 6 - At sea

Day six was our second consecutive day at sea. John was spending the night in the grandma's cabin so Kathleen and I could have a date night - and so we had reservations for Palo that evening.


The day began with another beautiful sunrise.




Sailing in to the sunrise


The sea was rolling, so we went up and looked around






Capt. Puckett gave another lecture


We encountered Minnie as she was heading up for a deck party. We said that's where we were going, too, so Minnie took John's hand and he escorted her to the deck party!




Waiting for the elevator


To the party they go!


Everyone was there... Chip and Dale...


Donald and Goofy...


Our host for the party...


Mickey liked John's sprinkler dance!


John got to dance with Pluto...


Goofy challenged him to an air guitar jam!

Kathleen and I thoroughly enjoyed our 'Couples Massage' at the spa. Julie and Andrew were such wonderful masseuses that we booked a second 'Couples Massage' at the end of our first!


After the massage, we got dressed up for dinner at Palo!


After Palo, we found some of our friends!


While we were having dinner, John found Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey!


Luckily, we also found Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey. After taking this photo, I ran back to my stateroom for...


...MY Sorcerer's Apprentice hat!


Mickey loved that I had a matching hat!
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Old 01-15-2013, 03:08 PM   #24
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Day 7 - At sea

Saturday, December 15th was our third consecutive day at sea.


Looking from the verandah early that day, we spotted a rainbow just behind us...


As we sailed ever closer to the Panama Canal, we got increasingly closer to the shore.




Just another day sailing in the Pacific Ocean.


Cruise staff hosted a "Farewell to the Pacific Party"






One of the chefs carved a swan out of a block of ice




Today was also a big day for character appearances!





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Old 01-15-2013, 03:23 PM   #25
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Day 8 - At sea

Sunday, December 16th was the last of four consecutive days spent at sea. Tomorrow we'll transit the Panama Canal, but today we'll have fun aboard the Disney Wonder!


Catching up with 101 Dalmatians on Funnel Vision


Getting closer to the Panama Canal...


The crew was everywhere, sprucing up the ship for the next day's big event.


Ah the life!


Hanging out with Ariel...




Kathleen's favorite character is Tink, so she was a big fan of the ship's fairy godmother!


Tink in the art gallery


Islands off the coast of Panama




The Disney photographers came through our dining rotation at Animator's Palate.










Arriving in Panama City the night of December 16th


The mouse has arrived in Panama!


After we anchor, the refueling barge comes along side to fill our tanks. You don't want to run out of fuel in the middle of the Panama Canal!
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Old 01-15-2013, 04:41 PM   #26
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Day 9 - Transiting the Panama Canal - Part 1

Monday, December 17th was our date with the Panama Canal. Thanks to Capt. Puckett's lectures, we were all experts on the canal for our transit through one of the modern wonders of the world.

We set our alarm for 5:45 AM as we'd be pulling up our anchor in Balboa Harbor and beginning the day-long voyage at 7 AM.


Leaving our overnight anchorage in Balboa Harbor


The Bridge of the Americas and the start of the Panama Canal lies ahead!


Something you can't see very many places on the west coast of the Americas - in Panama, the sun rises over the Pacific and sets over the Caribbean! Here, the sun rises over the Pacific Ocean...


Sun rises over a refrigerated ship


Our three Panama Canal pilots arrive for our voyage. One will be stationed on the bridge, one will be stationed on the bow, and one will be stationed at the stern.


Panama City


"Flamingo Station", the first signal station on the Pacific side of the canal


The flags on the left designate the Disney Wonder as "November 17 Zulu". "N" or "November" indicates we're "Northbound" in the canal. "17" means we're the 17th north-bound ship of the day, and "Zulu" indicates we're a passenger vessel. The two flags on the right indicate we're in Panamanian waters (farthest right flag) and that we have a pilot on board (flag that is half red and half white).


Panama City




Ancon Hill, a landmark that played a prominent role in the construction of the canal over 100 years ago.


"Bridge of the Americas" North America on the left, South America on the right. There is a school bus on the bridge, partially hidden by our mast. Upon seeing the school bus, our captain sounded the ship's horn, which plays the first seven notes from "When You Wish Upon A Star". I'm sure it was a treat for those school kids to see and hear a Disney cruise ship!






We could plainly see the construction of the new Miraflores Locks on the "North American" side of the canal.




Approaching Miraflores Locks!


Looking back towards the Pacific...


Getting connected to the locomotives that will keep us centered in the locks. Our forward progress will be provided by the ship's engines. The locomotives only keep the ship centered within the lock chambers.







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Old 01-15-2013, 06:00 PM   #27
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I am sooo enjoying your pictures... thank you so much. The Wonder is my favorite destination, and someday I hope to be lucky enough to do a Panama Canal crossing. Please, keep the pictures and info coming
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Next up... DCL Eastern aboard the Fantasy with NO KIDS February 2015! And we're GOLD, Baby!
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Old 01-16-2013, 11:07 AM   #28
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Day 9 - Transiting the Panama Canal - Part 2


Railroad bridge across Miraflores Locks


The catwalk with the yellow rails is actually the top of the lock gate. There isn't much room between the side of the lock at the side of the ship - 18" on each side!










The guys with the blue shorts, white golf shirts, and black backpacks are Disney ship photographers who disembarked when the pilot boat brought our pilots aboard. They would photograph the ship as we progressed through the canal. Here, they were photographing passengers on the ship from Miraflores Locks.






Leaving Miraflores Locks and heading out into Miraflores Lake, towards Pedro Miguel Locks




The rowboats are used to ferry small lines from the ship to the shore. Those small lines are attached to the locomotive's steel cables, which are then hauled aboard and attached to the ship, linking the ship to the positioning locomotive.


Looking back, the tower cranes of the new canal project rise in front of the Bridge of the Americas.


Digging the new approach to the new Miraflores Locks




18 inches between the ship's hull and the lock's wall!


Pedro Miguel Lock - our final step up in to the Panama Canal




The Panama Canal is a tourist attraction to those aboard the 'Wonder', but the 'Wonder' is a tourist attraction to those who work at the Canal!


Pedro Miguel Lock, with the Centennial Bridge in the distance




The locks all have 'double-gates', as the failure of a single gate in a 'single-gate' system would result in the canal and Lake Gatun draining out to the sea. After the lock was replaced, it would take four to five years for Mother Nature to refill Lake Gatun to the level where the canal could once again be used.





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Old 01-16-2013, 11:35 AM   #29
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Day 9 - Transiting the Panama Canal - Part 3


Aforementioned photo taken by Disney photographers ashore at Miraflores Locks.


Disney photo of us just prior to going under the Bridge of the Americas and entering the Panama Canal


Approaching the Centennial Bridge. We're now in the canal proper, 85 feet above sea level








Culebra Cut, later Galliard Cut, is the deepest part of the canal as it bisects the Continental Divide. The 'range finders' are used by captains and pilots to stay in the proper traffic lane.




John cannonballs his way through the Panama Canal




Prison where Manuel Noriega lives


Ship where Minnie Mouse lives




Railroad bridge spans the Chagres River. Damming the Chagres River with Gatun Dam was the single greatest engineering hurdle faced by the engineers building the canal


Panama Canal shipyard at Gamboa, where most canal maintenance is headquartered


Oncoming traffic!








The canal is always being dredged and widened





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Old 01-16-2013, 12:30 PM   #30
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Day 9 - Transiting the Panama Canal - Part 4


Entering Gatun Lake


We must be getting close to the Caribbean, as we've encountered pirates!


Sailing through Gatun Lake




Approaching Gatun Locks


Entering Gatun Locks




Dan, our dining room server, is spotted taking in the sights of the canal












Capt. & Mrs. Puckett




Canal/lock wall as seen through a Deck 3 window


Leaving Gatun Locks and entering Limon Bay, part of the Caribbean Sea


We're on Deck 3 for the character appearance of all character appearances!




Entering the Caribbean Sea!
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