Normally, a cruise in the warm, trade winds of the Caribbean Ocean is just a fleeting memory when you go on a seven day Carnival Cruise - crowds of people, hurried shore excursions, and generally seven, exhausting days and nights. Don't get me wrong, the ones we've previously taken were fun but nothing like the one I'm going to tell you about here. The photos in this document were taken with a Kodak Model DCS 120 digital camera although we assembled a large album full of memories you can look at sometime when you visit us at our home.
My wife and I were invited to join Crystal Cruise Lines "Computer University @ Sea" program on their Crystal Harmony to teach computers and to help guests and crew send Email back home to their friends and family. The sister ship Symphony started the program in early 1997 and it was expanded to the Harmony in March 1998. The knowledge and teaching experience we gained at the HAL-PC Senior Learning Center were invaluable on this exciting assignment. Generally, we were either delivering presentations, teaching (Windows 95, Email, Word, or Excel), giving private lessons, helping guests with their questions (with Judy and Erdie) or fixing bulky computers in the computer lab from two to six hours a day.
The Crystal Harmony is a 50,000 ton ship built in 1990 and caters to upscale cruisers. Cruise rating companies like Conde Naste Travelers, Fieldings, etc. have consistently given the two Crystal ships a six star rating. From our experiences, they've got a good thing going in the Harmony- a new ship, a swell crew, a beautiful lobby, an outdoor pool (with Judy), a covered pool, two hot tubs (with Judy) at different temperatures, ...
During our three cruises (33 days total on board), we made three trips through the Panama Canal - the first from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Acapulco, Mexico; the second from Acapulco to New Orleans; and the third from New Orleans back to Acapulco. During port days, my wife and I had much fun either helping escort organized tours or walking to town by ourselves to stretch our legs and get on shore for a while.
One of our first ports of call was Cozumel, Mexico where all the cruise ships stop. One time, we saw six cruise ships lined up on the docks around us. Talk about heavy metal - well over a billion dollars worth! The Carnival ships were always around us in the Caribbean including nice ones like the Celebration, Sensation, Ecstasy, and Destiny. Cozumel is a fun place because it has your typical tourist stops like T-shirt stores, a central market place, street vendors from the country, and lots of other excitement.
Another very different stop was the San Blas Islands off Panama on the Caribbean side. As the ship approached one of the main islands, the primitive Kuna Indians connected with us long before we got to shore. They constantly yelled "money, money, money" from their dug-out canoes along side our ship even before we boarded the tender to go ashore. People threw money over board and the Kuna kids would dive under water for it.
Passing through the Panama Canal was an exciting experience for us. As a matter of fact, each passage the Harmony took through the Panama Canal was an exciting experience for some reason. Maybe because the land (jungle) looks so tough and impenetrable. Surf to the live Web camera at http://www.pancanal.com/ to watch the ships go through - it's way cool - and will give you an idea of what the construction workers had to deal with in the early 1900's! Over 20,000 men died constructing this canal which is preparing for autonomous Panama control at the end of this year. Or, click on an almost minute-by-minute passage of the Crystal Harmony through the Panama Canal in real life.
A very intriguing stop for us was the Carrara Rain Forest in Costa Rica - a country known for its political stability, high rate of literacy, and concern for ecology. Our guide Humberto was very knowledgeable about the area and showed us lots of vegetation and animals (20 ft long crocodiles, macaws, toucans, howler monkeys, hanging termites, boa constrictors, etc.),
At the end of our westward journey was another interesting stop - Acapulco, Mexico. The place has been around for a long time but still has a wonderful way about it mostly because of the topography and artistic surroundings. Acapulco is not only known for its cliff divers but also for the majestic Princess Hotel complex (Judy, pool, veranda) and many beautiful high rise hotels on the waterfront.
All in all, we had a wonderful trip, met and worked with a lot of nice people, and considered ourselves cargo when we left the ship. This experience will go down as one of our best ever.
Back to the Travel Page