The Panama Canal

We are moving so slowly I’ve had to put my wristbands on. (For those of you who are new readers, I suffer from what is known as MDD – mal de debarquement – which means that, although I’m fine at sea, when I step onto land, my inner ear keeps swaying, so I essentially get landsick for about four or five days. So when we are in port, or get home, are moored up or just not swaying, I have to wear my travel bands, otherwise I get nauseous). I woke up this morning and knew immediately that we had entered the canal because I had to put my wristbands on. In addition to this, my air con has completely given up the proverbial as regards the heat and humidity here in the Panamanian rainforest, so here I am, up and dressed and out on deck at half eight in the morning, getting shoved out the way by fools who have never seen a lock gate before. It rains in Panama for about eight months a year and this is the wet season. You could probably drink the air if you were so inclined. Just put an empty glass down and wait for the humidity to coalesce on it and eventually you’d have enough to drink. The chances of it NOT raining today are pretty slim, although it has held off so far. Saying that, it’s only half nine in the morning, so there’s still time…

The main problem with canal day is telling you about it. Like I said, we travel very slowly and not very far, so the only thing that changes is the statistics.

54 million gallons of fresh water are used to lift us through all the locks and down the other side, where this water flows out into the sea. That’s quite a lot of water. It all comes from the one rainforest lake. If Panama ever loses its rainforest, the canal will dry up within days.

The fee we have paid for today’s transit is US$405,000. He did say what that was in English money, but I’ve forgotten. It’s a fair amount, anyway.

The cheapest toll ever paid was by Richard Halliburton, in 1928, who paid 36 cents for the right to swim the canal. It took him ten days to do. See? There are mentals everywhere. An American, no doubt.

We’re out the Gatun Locks, and moving at what can only be described as a fast jog. You know you’re starved for input when that’s the most exciting thing to note!

Over 950,000 vessels have transited the canal since it was opened and they are now building new, wider locks, to allow all the new, stupidly huge cruise ships to go through. They expect these to be up and running by 2015. You still won’t get me on one! There are 2,000 passengers on here and that’s too many. You rarely see the same people twice. If you more than doubled that?! No, thank you! We’ve heard stories of half hour queues to get into the theatre and an hour to get off at a port. That’s insane. Nope, I’m downsizing after this. I will be choosing my future cruises by tonnage.

If you fancy having a good laugh at my expense, by the way, the Royal Wedding is tomorrow at 11am BST. We are currently at GMT -5. Think about it. Yes, that’s 5am. Ha blooming ha.

Talking of which, there is a notice in today’s paper. Attention: tomorrow we will be holding an old-fashioned street party, complete with fancy dress competition for the best dressed Royal. Nothing like giving us a bit of warning! We’ve been at sea for two days. How exactly are we supposed to rustle up a fancy dress outfit with less than 24 hours’ warning?! Seriously, you must have to practice being this stupid in front of a mirror. There’s no way anyone is NATURALLY that thick, surely?

While we’re on the subject, your film choices today are The Queen or The King’s Speech. Spotting a theme at all?

People were obviously only interested in the locks, because now we’re out, crossing the Gatun Lake, the sunbeds and the pool are filling up and the ambient noise level has increased significantly. It is noticeable that since Barbados one quarter of the passengers are new. 500 got off and 500 got on. It’s astonishing how few faces I recognise and it feels quite disorientating. It’s not easy, because you have to start all over again with getting to know people and I can’t help but feel that the rudeness level has also risen since the changeover. I’m quite sure I’ve been shoved out the way much more since then.

The problem is that this is a very bitty cruise. It seems to divide rather neatly into two-week lumps, which means that people who still work for a living are able to join. It was thirteen days to Barbados and now it is two weeks to San Francisco. I think the rudeness comes from the fact that these are working people who don’t know how to slow down and spend their daily lives pushing people out the way, so they just act the same on here. Retired people understand that there’s no rush in life. Shoving me out the way so that you can get your yellow jelly before I get mine is just pointless. It achieves nothing and all you do is look like a rude, obnoxious git, which is, in fact, exactly what you are. Is yellow jelly really that important, anyway? They just have no sense of perspective. Seriously, how important is yellow jelly, in the grand scheme of things? You’re not going to die if I get my yellow jelly before you get yours. Just chill out and stop shoving. It’s a measure of how much people shove each other aside in real life as to how much they do it on here. Some of these people must demand the entire pavement to themselves. Of course, it’s more noticeable on here that it is on, say, Oxford Street, in the centre of London, but that doesn’t excuse it in either setting. We have become a rather rude society, it seems to me. I know I rant on this subject on every cruise, but it is nonetheless true. The world is getting ruder and P&O cruisers are sadly no exception.

So, in summary, the Panama Canal has green water, the colour of verdigris for the more precise among you, although it gets a bit yellower where we’ve kicked the sand up on the bottom, the air is so moist you can wash in it and P&O passengers can be very rude. Nothing new under Heaven, as the saying goes.


One thought on “The Panama Canal

  1. Sheila and David says:

    You hit the nail on the head re the 500 new people getting on in Barbados. The atmosphere changed on the ship from that time on and we also agree that we have never met such a rude bunch of people. We got shoved too. However, it did improve after Los Angeles!!

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