For their 50th wedding anniversary, Diane and Terry Morse decided to celebrate with an epic 16-day cruise aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam vessel. They left from San Diego and sailed to ports in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica before navigating through the massive locks of the Panama Canal.
People started gathering at the bow of the ship in the wee morning hours – as early as 4:00 am – to catch the first glimpse of the canal and Panama City in the distance. “It was so exciting! We waited so long!”
Tiny boats, each ferrying a Panamanian captain, surrounded their cruise ship. As Diane explained, “They have all these captains that come out to each boat, climb the ladder to the captain who’s running the cruise ship, and they take over for twelve hours. Each boat has to have their own captain from the Panama Canal to take them through.”
It’s a bit of a precarious operation traveling through the canal. “There’s only two feet on each side. TWO FEET!” The boats are centered within the locks and held in place by ropes. The entire process was closely monitored by small Panamanian boats that followed the cruise ship through each lock.
After clearing the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks, the ship sailed across Gatun Lake – once the largest man-made lake in the world – to the last set of locks, which emptied into the Atlantic. The waters weren’t kind that day, and it was a bit of a rough ride for the next 24 hours. But battling the wind and waves were a small price to pay as Terry and Diane got their “first taste of white sand” in Aruba.
The highlight of the trip was in Bahama’s Half Moon Cay where they found “the bluest water and the whitest sand I have ever seen, and it was unbelievable.”
“I kept saying to myself, ‘It really is as blue as I think it is. It was a true paradise.’”