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Rick Archer's Note:  This page is the original promotional material for our January 2012 trip. 

I keep it here because it has a lot of general information that might be useful to someone considering this trip for themselves.


Panama Canal 2012



Rick's Note: Are you ready for a serious adventure?  How about the Panama Canal?  Marla and I invite you to join us on a 14 day, 5,000 mile ocean adventure in the latter half of January 2012. 

The Coral Princess will
depart from Los Angeles on January 17th, 2012.  Six days later we reach beautiful Costa Rica, one of Marla's favorite destinations in the world.

Two days after that we reach the magnificent Panama Canal.  The ship will dedicate two days to the Panama Canal experience.  I can't wait to see Lake Gatun, the man-made lake which forms the center of Canal.

Then it is on to Cartagena, Colombia, and to the scuba-paradise island of Aruba off the coast of Venezuela.  From there we head back to the USA at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Imagine being at sea for 5,000 miles!

This is not a typical SSQQ Travel Group Cruise.  Marla and I have been hired as the official Ballroom Instructors onboard the Coral Princess.  Considering we will be at sea for 8 of the 14 days, we will be teaching a lot of dance workshops.  In addition, you can assume that dancing will play a major role during the evening on this trip.

A trip to the Panama Canal trip has been on the dream list for many SSQQ people for some now and that includes Marla and myself.  Then out of nowhere, this opportunity came up.

Marla told me that several people mentioned
the Panama Canal when polled earlier in the year.  We realize this is short notice, but we thought there might be some people that might like to join us.  Marla will be more than happy to book you onto the trip.  If you have some free time in January, please consider climbing on board for what promises to be an exciting adventure!



Panama Canal








  Los Angeles, California                   Depart Tuesday, January 17, 2012,  at 5:00 PM


  At Sea



  At Sea



  At Sea



  At Sea



  At Sea



  Puntarenas, Costa Rica

7:00 AM

7:00 PM


  At Sea



  Fuerte Amador, Panama (for Panama City)

8:00 AM

6:00 PM


  Panama Canal, Panama

5:00 AM

4:30 PM


  Cartagena, Colombia

8:00 AM

2:00 PM



1:00 PM

7:00 PM


  At Sea



  At Sea



 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida                    Return Tuesday, January 31, 2012  at 7:00 AM


About the Panama Canal Cruise

The Panama Canal is one of the world's great engineering masterpieces.  Considering the difficulty involved in construction and the international importance of this vital waterway, many consider the Panama Canal to be the "Eighth Wonder of the World"

And what a Wonder it is!  Look what the Panama Canal accomplished.  Prior to its completion, the added distance for ships sailing from New York to San Francisco around Cape Horn at the lower tip of South America versus through the Panama Canal was 8,000 miles!! 

Some people have compared the task of building the canal to building the Pyramids.  I have no idea the time it took to construct the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the most famous "Ancient" Wonder of the World, but the scope of both projects is mind-numbing.

Like the monumental scale of the Egyptian Pyramids, the building of the Panama Canal was a massive project that involved thousands of men, tremendous hardship, and constant danger.  Many men died building the Canal either from accident or disease.  Yellow fever and malaria was a huge problem.  Men literally had to risk their lives to participate.

Given the enormity of the accomplishment, it is not surprising that travelers across the globe aspire to one day witness this marvel of engineering up close.  People have been lining up to witness this amazing accomplishment since the moment construction began.

The result of historic efforts, a Panama Canal cruise is truly a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, best experienced by sailing through the waterway on an unforgettable cruise.  Marla and I hope you will join us.


Ports of Call


Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Two days before the cruise ship reaches Panama, we have an entire day devoted to exploring the lush jungles of Costa Rica.

To Spanish explorers, the rumors of gold and vast riches could only mean that this section of Central America was the 'costa rica' - the "Rich Coast."

Costa Rica has been hailed as the Switzerland of the Americas for its reputation of peace, political stability, and prosperity.  Although this slogan smacks of an overzealous marketing strategy along the lines of "Greenland", there is no doubt that Costa Rica is the shining light of Central America.  It is one of the few countries in this area not plagued by drugs and excessive violence.

Consequently Costa Rica has become a favorite location for Americans to retire.  The country is safe, the economics are favorable and the beauty of the land is unquestioned.

Costa Rica occupies a unique geographic position, lying between two oceans and two continents. The jungles of Costa Rica are something to behold.  On both coasts, tropical rainforests rise to the mountains of the interior, many of which soar over 13,000 feet above sea level.

In the west, a seemingly endless succession of brown-sand beaches forms the nation's Pacific coast.

Puntarenas is your gateway to Costa Rica's wonders - and to its capital city of San Jose.

Things to do and see while at port in Puntarenas:

·         Poas Volcano

The Poás Volcano, Costa Rica's natural wonder, sits at 8,500 feet above sea level. It is one of the few active craters in the Americas, and is famed for its geyser-like eruptions of gas and ash.

·         Rainforest Aerial Tram

Costa Rica's incredible Rainforest Aerial Tram offers an intimate ride above the treetops and past awe-inspiring waterfalls while a knowledgeable naturalist guide points out highlights along the way.

·         Costa Rica Rainforest

From the misty treetops of the Monteverde Cloud Forest to the brilliantly-colored scarlet macaws who call Carara National Park their home, Costa Rica's lush rainforests are full of intrigue.

·         Arenal Volcano/Thermal Springs

Set near glorious Lake Arenal, this incredible volcano is one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world.  Here is a picture of its eruption in 1968.  Arenal is also famous for its natural mineral hot springs and exuberant vegetation.

·         San Jose & National Theater

Costa Rica's vibrant capital city is home to the Gold Museum, the spectacular Metropolitan Cathedra, the historic National Museum (the scene of fighting during the 1948 civil war), and the National Theater, considered to the country's most beautiful building.



2 Days in Panama

Day One: Fuerte Amador, Panama City

The Panama Canal is an engineering feat to behold. Our itinerary allows us a 2-Day Panama Canal experience.  This is the best way to see the Panama Canal.  We have one day to explore and one day to actually transit the Canal.  This extra time will give us the opportunity to understand why the building of the Canal was such a monumental achievement.

On the first day, the ship docks just off the shore of Panama City. Fuerte Amador, situated at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, is a man-made peninsula extending out into the Pacific Ocean.

You will have an entire day to go see whatever you wish to see in the Panama Canal.  Here is your opportunity to tour the capital of Panama City, ride the fabled Panama Canal Railway, take an aerial tram through the rainforest, go monkey watching, visit an Indian village, or take a fishing expedition in the fabled Lake Gatun, once the largest artificial lake in the world.  

Panama is a very interesting country.  The narrow isthmus separating the Atlantic from the Pacific Ocean had a turbulent history long before Teddy Roosevelt initiated the project to build the transcontinental canal at the turn of 1900.

Spanish conquistadors hauled Incan gold through the dense rainforest to ports on the Atlantic. English freebooters sought to ransack those ports and attack the treasure ships that sailed from Portobelo. And the 49ers braved mosquitoes and yellow fever to get to the California gold fields.

Panama is a pretty country, combining mountains and jungles into a wild tropical tableau. While the Panama Canal remains one of the great American engineering feats of the 20th century, visitors to Panama will discover a whole range of scenic wonders.

Hike into the dense rainforest, home to over 1,000 species of animals. Or pay a visit to an Embera Indian village in the heart of Chagres National Park. The list of possibilities is almost endless.  Although whatever you choose will be wonderful, you will be consumed with frustration that there is more to see than you have time for.

Fuerte Amador, Panama... next to Panama City

Fuerte Amador, situated at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, is a man-made peninsula extending out into the Pacific Ocean.  This is where all the cruise ships anchor just off the shore of Panama on the Pacific side.

The one-mile causeway was created by connecting four small islands with rocks excavated from the Panama Canal. There are several shops, restaurants, and other specialty stores centered around a large marina that serves as a tender dock.  The causeway affords a panoramic view of Panama City's impressive skyline.

·         Pan Viejo - Panama City

The original devastated city is still in ruins, and has become known as Panama Viejo, or "Old Panama." Take in the sights, sounds, and shopping at this historic location.

·         Casco Viejo - Panama City

Casco Viejo displays a mix of architectural styles, which reflect the cultural diversity of the country. Caribbean, Art Deco, French and Colonial architecture mix in this historic area.

·         Panama Canal Railway

Ride the world's first transcontinental railway. Luxurious passenger accommodations afford travelers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience Panama's rainforest setting along the historic route originally built in 1850 during the heyday of the California gold rush.  The route across the isthmus follows the east bank of the canal and affords an intimate view of the waterway as well.

·         The Miraflores Canal Locks

The Miraflores Locks (pictured) are part of the engineering marvel that makes the Panama Canal so amazing. The Miraflores Locks Observation Center provides a close view of how the locks function. 

The Miraflores Locks transfer 26 million gallons of water in under 7 minutes at the Pacific end of the Canal.  You have to see it to believe it... or maybe we should say "understand it".

·         Cruise Gatun Lake

A jungle boat excursion through the dense rainforest highlights the abundance of exotic wildlife and breathtaking scenery found along this vital waterway, a key component of the Panama Canal's intricate system

·         Aerial Tram and Soberania

The Gamboa Resort lies in the heart of Panama's 55,000-acre Soberania National Park. Board your air-conditioned aerial tram for the 20-minute ascent through the rainforest canopy.

Nestled within the vast Soberania National Park, an aerial tram soars over the Gamboa Rainforest, a jungle paradise and complex ecological system that showcases some of the most spectacular vegetation and wildlife in the world.  The canopy is something to behold from above.

This is how you can get your view of the fabulous Panama Panorama!

·         Gatun Locks

On the Atlantic side, the three chambers of the Gatun Locks raise ships 85 feet above sea levelWitness the workings of the Panama Canal at Gatun Locks Observation Area. Take in the engineering feat required to move ships over a continental divide that separates two oceans.

·         Visit Gatun Lake

Pictured here, Gatun Lake is located amidst 50,000 acres of pristine rainforestGatun Lake is a natural gem hosts an incredible variety of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

(Hint from Rick: You will see this lake when we will pass through on our cruise ship the following day.  However I don't imagine the cruise ship will take you into all the many inlets and through the islands).


Day Two:

The Trip Through
Panama Canal

You won't leave the ship today as we pass through the Canal, but nonetheless this moment will surely be the highlight of your entire trip.  You can enjoy the beauty of the tropical jungle, the mountains that surround Lake Gatun, and the complexity of the locks right from the comfort of your cruise ship.  Cross your fingers and hope it is a sunny day, but don't worry... thanks to an invention known as the umbrella, you won't miss a thing even if it rains.  Nothing can spoil a day like this!


Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena is the city where the Spanish founded their first settlement in South America.  Due to its proximity to Panama, Cartagena would eventually become the transit port for much the wealth Spain derived from South America.

Throughout Colombia, the Spanish Empire's influence in the New World is self-evident. Its fortress walls, quaint narrow streets, and balconied houses are all vivid reminders of Spain's original hold on Cartagena.

This is the land of El Dorado and flamboyant adventurers in search of the ever-elusive gold.

Cartagena's well-constructed fortifications defended its borders against seafaring pirates whose attacks lasted for more than 200 years.

Today this modern and bustling city, seaport, and commercial center still boasts much of its original colonial architecture. Your journey here will provide you with a significant link to the region's grand past. The famous "Old City" is comprised of 12 square blocks filled with attractions, boutiques and restaurants.

·         Old City

The walled historic center of Cartagena is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its winding streets lined with Spanish Colonial architecture display colorfully painted buildings, local bars and restaurants.

·         Las Murallas

Considered by many the most impressive city walls in the world, Las Murallas began construction after an attack by Francis Drake at the end of the 16th century.

·         Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Majestically standing guard on a hillside overlooking the city and harbor is Castillo de San Felipe, a fortress built by the Spanish for protection against pirates while shipping gold out to Europe.

·         Palacio de la Inquisicion

Behind a charming, colonial facade, the palace museum displays instruments of torture from the Spanish Inquisition, pre-Columbian, colonial and independence-era art.

·          Cartagena's Cathedral

The cathedral is one of the largest in a series of fortresses with a massive exterior and simple interior. Partially demolished by Sir Francis Drake's cannons, it was completed in 1602.

·         Museo de Oro y Arqueloguía

Gold and pottery collections of the Tayrona, Calima and Sinú people are on display, as well as panel exhibitions about the Atlantic coast cultures.

·         Las Bóvedas

Inside the Old City are Las Bóvedas, dungeons initially built for military purposes, now home to boutiques and tourist shops.

·         La Popa Monastery

The 400-year-old monastery, built on the foundations of a razed Indian temple, sits on a 500-ft hill and affords a panoramic view of the city. Inside note a statue of the Virgin of Candelaria, credited with delivering the city from the ravages of disease and pirates.



Aruba is a well-known vacation island located a mere 17 miles off the coast of Venezuela.  Despite its proximity to this large nation, Aruba is most closely linked with the Netherlands 5,000 miles away in Europe. 

gained its independence in 1986, but seems to maintain ties with the Dutch through the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Aruba is part of the ABC islands.  Bonaire and Curacao are not only close neighbors, they too are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

Aruba enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean region including a low unemployment rate. Three quarters of the Aruban economy is generated through tourism.  

Aruba is best known for some of the prettiest beaches in the Caribbean and some of the best scuba areas.  You can choose between a day at the beach or rent a jeep and go exploring some of many lovely spots on the island.

·         Ayo and Casibari Rock Formations

These dramatic formations are shaped by boulders, some the size of small houses and weighing several tons. Arawak Indians would visit in order to hear incoming thunderstorms and draw on the rocks.

·         California Lighthouse

Perched on a high elevation and named after the "U.S. California," which sunk off the coast of Aruba, this lighthouse was built in 1910, and offers stunning views of the island and coastline.

·         Oranjestad

Oranjestad, Aruba's largest port, is also the island's capital and offers the best shopping experience on its main street, but is also known for its impressive Dutch Colonial architecture.

·         The "Antilla" Shipwreck

The 400-foot "Antilla" is one of the Caribbean's largest shipwrecks and also one of its most popular attractions. It was sunk during World War II and is home to many kinds of exotic sea life.

·         Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge and Baby Natural Bridge are two stunning rock and coral formations. The Natural Bridge fell into the sea in 2005 but the smaller bridge remains a must-see island highlight.

·         Arikok National Park

Aruba's National Park is home to spectacular cacti, flora and fauna that flourish in this desert-like environment. Along with the wind-swept divi-divi trees, wild donkeys and iguanas also live here.

·         Beaches

Aruba is famous for gorgeous, palm-tree lined white sandy beaches which are home to calm clear waters, making them perfect locations for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing.  Some cruise people simply head for the nearest luxury hotel and spend the day in total relaxation on their beach.

·         Butterfly Farm

Aruba's Butterfly Farm is home to hundreds of exotic butterflies who fly freely within large meshed enclosures. Witness all stages of their life cycle and with guidance, handle these tiny creatures.


Panama Canal Registration Information:

Marla's Note:
As this is not your typical SSQQ Travel Group Cruise, there need to be some changes to our usual Travel Rules.

1. There is no "Group".  All reservations will be made through Marla as individual bookings. Marla does have the ability to link everyone together for dining purposes.

2. Unfortunately, you must either have a roommate to share your cabin or pay the single occupancy rate. Marla can advertise for a roommate, but cannot guarantee one.

3. Full Deposit will be due at time of reservation.

Pricing as follows:

$1964 per person double occupancy (it was $2065)
$2364 per person double occupancy (it was $2465)
$2464 per person double occupancy (it was $2765)

For questions, Contact Marla Archer at

Would you like to read more about the Panama Canal?

The Big Ditch, the Big Bathtub, and the Spanish Empire
Panama Canal 1 Panama Canal 2 Panama Canal 3
SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ