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twangster

ūüéĶPanama! ūüéĶ Vision of the Seas Oct. 30, 2019

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I can't get that song out of my head.  You know, the song by Van Halen? Even though it has nothing to do with the Panama Canal.  

I thought about titling this "The cruise that almost wasn't".  Let me explain.  

My plan was to fly in the day before and stay on the Queen Mary.  I was almost as excited about the Queen Mary (now a hotel in Long Beach, CA) as I was about the Panama Canal.  Good ole mother nature had a surprise for me.

Snow! Lots of it.

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At 5am I opened Lyft and Uber to compare prices and... no cars available.  Rut Roh.  Let's try again.  Nope.  Hmmm.  A little bit of panic was starting to set it.  A 3rd time.  Ding!  A car is on the way.  I went out to my usual pick up spot in the falling snow.  I wasn't going to let the driver get cold feet and bolt.  By the time he arrived I had an inch of snow on my suitcase. 

It had snowed the day before but this is Denver so no shocker.  However at this early hour the snow on top of the black ice from yesterday's melt made for very treacherous driving conditions.  Cars were in ditches, accidents were seen all over.  It was early in the season so people new to snow were learning the hard way how not to drive in the snow.

It took almost 75 minutes for the normal 30 minute ride to the airport.  My driver kept asking "Do you want to go back?.  No flights leaving today".  Then a text from Southwest - "SWA Flight 750 is cancelled".  Odd, the inbound flight was on time, my plane was landing in Denver but the ongoing leg to California was cancelled.  

I wasn't about to miss my cruise, onward to the airport, even if I had to sleep there tonight I was determined to make it out of Denver on the first flight that I could.  

Southwest wanted to rebook me on the next flight out scheduled at noon that was delayed until 5pm.   By this time I was at the airport.  Delta had a 9:15am flight to Salt Lake.  I stopped by the Delta ticket counter and asked if the 9:15am was actually going.  Yep.  Book it.  On the spot I booked a one way to Long Beach on Delta.  I've played this game with Southwest before and they tend to eventually cancel everything so I put my faith in Delta and for $500 I was on my way.  Or so I thought.

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At the gate I discovered our flight and cabin crew were missing.  They had overnighted in local hotels but they were stuck in the now worse traffic and accidents heading to the airport.  We were delayed.  Eventually they made it and we boarded.  With 3 inches of snow on the plane we had to de-ice.  Another delay.  Finally we took off 75 minutes late.  Late enough that I would miss my connection in Salt Lake.  So much for getting into Long Beach in the afternoon.  I was rebooked on a 5pm flight from Salt Lake to Long Beach.   Salt Lake also had light snowfall.  I heard the pilots talking as the plane boarded in Salt Lake - "We're de-icing".  Another delay.  

After a 14 hour travel day I made it to the Queen Mary in California.  Phew.  

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Itinerary for this 16 night cruise:

Panama Canal, Eastbound.  Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale.

Day 1 - San Pedro (Los Angeles) 

Day 2 - At Sea

Day 3 - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Day 4 - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Day 5 - At Sea

Day 6 - At Sea

Day 7 - Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Day 8 - At Sea

Day 9 - Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Day 10 - At Sea

Day 11 - Panama Canal Full Transit

Day 12 - Colon, Panama

Day 13 - Cartagena, Columbia

Day 14 - At Sea

Day 15 - Georgetown, Grand Cayman

Day 16 - At Sea

Day 17 - Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

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1 hour ago, twangster said:

I can't get that song out of my head.  You know, the song by Van Halen? Even though it has nothing to do with the Panama Canal.  

I thought about titling this "The cruise that almost wasn't".  Let me explain.  

My plan was to fly in the day before and stay on the Queen Mary.  I was almost as excited about the Queen Mary (now a hotel in Long Beach, CA) as I was about the Panama Canal.  Good ole mother nature had a surprise for me.

Snow! Lots of it.

iqJ3Qnu.jpg

At 5am I opened Lyft and Uber to compare prices and... no cars available.  Rut Roh.  Let's try again.  Nope.  Hmmm.  A little bit of panic was starting to set it.  A 3rd time.  Ding!  A car is on the way.  I went out to my usual pick up spot in the falling snow.  I wasn't going to let the driver get cold feet and bolt.  By the time he arrived I had an inch of snow on my suitcase. 

It had snowed the day before but this is Denver so no shocker.  However at this early hour the snow on top of the black ice from yesterday's melt made for very treacherous driving conditions.  Cars were in ditches, accidents were seen all over.  It was early in the season so people new to snow were learning the hard way how not to drive in the snow.

It took almost 75 minutes for the normal 30 minute ride to the airport.  My driver kept asking "Do you want to go back?.  No flights leaving today".  Then a text from Southwest - "SWA Flight 750 is cancelled".  Odd, the inbound flight was on time, my plane was landing in Denver but the ongoing leg to California was cancelled.  

I wasn't about to miss my cruise, onward to the airport, even if I had to sleep there tonight I was determined to make it out of Denver on the first flight that I could.  

Southwest wanted to rebook me on the next flight out scheduled at noon that was delayed until 5pm.   By this time I was at the airport.  Delta had a 9:15am flight to Salt Lake.  I stopped by the Delta ticket counter and asked if the 9:15am was actually going.  Yep.  Book it.  On the spot I booked a one way to Long Beach on Delta.  I've played this game with Southwest before and they tend to eventually cancel everything so I put my faith in Delta and for $500 I was on my way.  Or so I thought.

GZ0Cj93.jpg

At the gate I discovered our flight and cabin crew were missing.  They had overnighted in local hotels but they were stuck in the now worse traffic and accidents heading to the airport.  We were delayed.  Eventually they made it and we boarded.  With 3 inches of snow on the plane we had to de-ice.  Another delay.  Finally we took off 75 minutes late.  Late enough that I would miss my connection in Salt Lake.  So much for getting into Long Beach in the afternoon.  I was rebooked on a 5pm flight from Salt Lake to Long Beach.   Salt Lake also had light snowfall.  I heard the pilots talking as the plane boarded in Salt Lake - "We're de-icing".  Another delay.  

After a 14 hour travel day I made it to the Queen Mary in California.  Phew.  

8j8cxmy.jpg

This is why I hate living in the upper midwest. Minneapolis has already had a few dusting of snow this year and its only getting worse. Glad you made it out of Denver. Way too early for snow in my opinion

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I can't start into the actual cruise until I mention the Queen Mary.  As a cruise geek this is the ultimate way to kick off any cruise.  

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The Queen Mary is an ocean liner that began service in 1936.  She was built with one mission in mind - sailing the North Atlantic between Southampton and New York.  Before the days of airplanes flying between the continents there was only one way to make the journey - by sea.  She isn't a cruise ship exactly, she just had two destinations repeated week after week.  However you can see where many of the things we have come to enjoy on modern cruise ships have evolved from the days of ocean liners. 

The Queen Mary ended service in 1967 and was sailed for the last time to the harbor in Long Beach California.  The City of Long Beach bought the Queen Mary outbidding a Chinese scrapyard and so the QM lives on now as a museum and hotel.  I've stayed here before since Carnival sails from Long Beach right next door, within walking distance of the QM.  

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On this occasion I booked a Deluxe King room for $129 per night plus local taxes.  This is pretty competitive with local hotels so given the opportunity to stay on this historic old ship I'll do it every time.

The QM isn't a small ship.  In dimensions she approaches Voyager class and she was too big for the Panama Canal the day she was built.  

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This cabin was considered first class in the day but the decor is more modern compared to what a guest in 1936 would have experienced.  While not a suite it was a large step up above third class.  In 1936 a one way first class fare was $1,074.  

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As a means to conserve limited fresh water supplies, guests could choose hot salt water, cold salt water, hot fresh water or cold fresh water.  Those aren't functional today, the modern shower control above and to the left controls the water now.

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Several vents that double as thermostats.  Want it warmer?  Slide to left.  Want cool air?  Slide to the right.  These are not operational today, modern thermostats are used but it's cool to see how guests would have warmed their cabins in the cold North Atlantic.

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Working portholes!  No balconies on ships in those days, these portholes were a luxury.

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The flat panel TV's were added during a renovation to meet modern expectations for a hotel room.

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This cruise will be so great! I did a partial transit with Carnival last year and it still seems surreal. Staying at the Queen Mary is my favorite way to start off any sailing from either LB or San Pedro. I'll definitely be following. I was a bit worried about the weather getting back to Salt Lake today, but, much like last year, Denver got hit harder than we did.

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I have been on the QE2 three times and QM2 once. We're you able to go into the ballroom. Did they still have several restaurants you can pick? I love your style. I am following. By the way which camera did you bring?

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You're gonna have to bear with me because I am about to go overboard with Queen Mary pictures.  I just love this old ship.

Arriving later than expected once settled in my cabin I made my way to the Observation Bar for a drink and a bite to eat.

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Walking around the ship you feel a deep sense of history.

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Not a bad place to catch the end of game six of the World Series with the city lights of Long Beach across the bay.

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Glad you were able to make it through the snow and not miss your trip, not to mention not missing the Queen Mary! That is a beautiful old ship, glad they preserved her and made her into a hotel where people can see what the days of classic ocean liner travel were like.

Have a fantastic trip across the canal! Can't wait to see the pics. I'm also curious which camera gear you brought, seems like this would be a good trip for big glass.

Cabo San Lucas is one of my bucket list destinations, hope you have a great time there as well as (cue the Love Boat) "beautiful Puerto Vallarta".

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Day 1

IT'S CRUISE DAY!!!

But first, more Queen Mary pictures in daylight.

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The Queen Mary was a fast ship.  Faster than today's cruise ships of this size or larger.  She routinely cruised at over 28 knots and during sea trials she reached just over 32 knots.

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This enclosed promenade deck would have been popular on those cold North Atlantic winter crossings.

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The Verandah Grill towards the aft of the ship was an extra cost restaurant.  In other words the concept of specialty dining started decades before modern cruise lines embraced the idea.

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During World War II the Queen Mary was put into service as a troop carrier bringing troops back and forth between the US. and Britain.   She was painted grey and earned the name the Grey Ghost.  Her top speeds allowed her to elude german u-boats. 

On one crossing she carried a staggering 15,740 service personnel with a crew of 943 for a total of 16,683 souls on board.  That remains the highest count ever carried by any vessel, a record that is unlikely to ever be broken.   

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During this time they removed all the fine china and crystal and converted every square inch to the goal of maximizing space for the troops.  Gone were the cabin class 1st class accommodations, it was all about squeezing troops on board.  During the war when she was a troop carrier he was fitted with anti aircraft guns.

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A lego model has been constructed and is on display in a room called the shipyard.

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Sir Winston Churchill would routinely sail her during the war to coordinate efforts with the allies. In this photo he is sitting by this very fireplace.

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How about these lifeboats?

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The bridge:

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The Captain's quarters have been preserved in their original condition.

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She even had a fitness center back in the day with modern exercise equipment.

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If you ever get the chance I highly recommend a stay on the Queen Mary.

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Day 1 - Los Angeles (San Pedro)

Finally on with the cruise!

The Lyft ride from the Queen Mary to the cruise terminal was $12.

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I arrived later than normal because I wanted to take pictures of the QM in daylight.  As it turns out I was still early and it was prior to boarding.  This cruise terminal is a little different.  My expedited boarding worked well with a quick scan of my SetSail pass and passport but security occurs after check in as they call groups for boarding.


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Finally boarding commenced closer to 12:40pm.  Apparently CBP was really slow processing the ship.  Talking with some B2B guests they were cleared just after noon time.    

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The port area is industrial with numerous docks setup for container ships.

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A Princess ship was also boarding today.

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A special welcome aboard cake - Panama Canal edition was waiting for us in the Windjammer.

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Time for muster.

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Finally sail away.

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The battleship Iowa is on display here in San Pedro.

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Onward towards the Pacific!

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7 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

Is the pool empty (no water) ?  It looked like it from the deck photo.

It was empty upon boarding.  They have to dump the pool water while at sea since they can't dump anything while in port no matter how well any water is treated.  Nor can they fill a pool while in port.  In cases where they have to do any maintenance with an empty pool often this means no pool upon boarding.  Majesty was the same last week.  

 

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Cabin Tour!

Ocean view deck 3 forward.

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The dreaded shower curtain.

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The bathrooms have been updated.  They are similar in style to the bathrooms being installed when a ship receives new cabins.  

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On deck plans certain cabins appear larger in the forward section of the ship.  The livable cabin space remains the same however there is a ledge in front of the windows.  It's quite large, almost enough to put a mattress in there but it does push the windows out away so they are less accessible.  

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Beds separated for better use of the space.

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Sunset not long after sail away as we sailed past Catalina in the distance.

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The ship was decorated for Halloween.

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Somehow my SeaPass card was invalid.  It worked on my cabin door but when swiped on board it had an invalid folio attached that didn't exist in the system.  This required a stop by guest services to get a new card.  She was baffled why the folio printed on the card and in the system didn't actually exist.  Oh well, easily fixed with a new card.

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Day 2 - Sea Day

Our progress as we make our way down the coast.

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Formal night.

Due to the high number of top elite the entire "Some Enchanted Evening Lounge" is reserved for the Diamond Happy Hour event.  The Viking Crown Lounge and Concierge Club is Pinnacles and Suites only on this sailing.  This actually works well because the Diamond Club is tiny on this ship.   

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Spur of the moment decision to use my Diamond Plus BOGO for Giovanni's and Chops.  The letter in my cabin stated I could use my BOGO on day one through three.  I had a $50 OBC and with prepaid gratuity I figured why not?  Table with a view.

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Bread service.

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Antipasti for one.

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Filet.  Yumm.

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Risotto for a side.

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A very nice dinner experience.

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