Our Winter Wonderland




The family managed to catch up at the Holiday Inn (no. 2) in San Diego on Saturday December 6th, family consisting of Les and Barb Emmerson, my cousin and wife, and us, Emyr and Maggi Davies.  The first confusion occurs when anyone ask us where we come from. Innocuous as it may seem, it involves a great deal of explanation trying to gather how Les and I are cousins, when he lives in Florida,

having moved from California where they have lived or many years,   while his wife is Canadian. On the other hand, I and Les come from north of England, UK, and Emyr comes from Wales, also UK, but he’s not English, he’s Welsh.   And we live in Spain. Within five minutes, it’s guaranteed that we can confuse any intelligent adult, and we note a glazed look coming over their eyes after the first ten minutes as they mentally confirm to themselves that they won’t ask THAT question again…


Leslie and Barbara


So here we are at the Holiday Inn… Down town San Diego-

 Emyr and I had been there for two days running around with a car, so we knew our way around by now.   We didn´t manage to visit the zoo, reputed to be the biggest and best  in the world, but we managed a trip to Sea world.   

Shamu the wale in Seaworld



It was a big mistake was letting two women loose in “Seaport Village” with all the lovely shops, even though the guys soon found some superb restaurants.



Emyr decided that rather than take a taxi to the Cruise Terminal, he would keep the car for an extra day, and having done so, made sure that all the suitcases and persons WOULD fit in, no matter how much time it took…     We wound up at the terminal ready to start our cruise on an inclement mizzly day just wanting to get some rest after our superb Brunch at the Tom Hamms Lighthouse, where we unexpectedly watched our ship “Infinity” sail right past us at 12.15 pm.


We boarded at 4 pm.     Getting on board was fairly simple, but as has happened before, the luggage was a different story, and Les and Barb didn’t get their last case until 11.30!  (We think the label was removed by the lady porter, who didn’t get sufficient tip!!….)   unfortunately this was the one important case, which held his medication… so dinner was a little fraught.


Our first dinner, ( 2nd sitting) 8.30, was our first meeting of our table companions.   Cheryl, with her husband Ken, are moving to Florida, quite close to Barb and Les. Ken  is very keen on working out in the Gym.  Cheryl has promised to show me how to work out in the Casino.  The other two are Caroline and Bill, she seems to have done everything, and he is ex-military who knows everything about aircraft. 

from left to right… Barb and Les… Carolyne and Bob…Cheryll and Ken… Myself and Emyr


 I found the first night very tiring,  we visited the show in the theatre, and all had an early night. (Midnight!)


Wednesday Dec 10th 8.50 am.


Cabo San Lucas.


Yesterday was our first trip ashore.  It was also our first warmth, which made the day a lot more pleasant and re-charged my solar panels beautifully.

I was up early for breakfast, and found a spot in the “Healthy eating” bar by the inside swimming Thallasotherapy pool. (Les and I tried this out later on, it has bubbles springing from everywhere or a hot jet of water trained to the back of your neck, or any other parts you wish to lay beneath it…)  Where I was discovered and joined by L&B.   After a few minutes by the outside pool in the sunshine, (Les tried the water in the outside pool, and said it was FREEZING… not for us) it was time to clamber aboard the tender, which took us to the small port of  Cabo San Lucas.



First sight of shore was the cunningly aligned set of kiosks, all holding beautiful Mexican silver jewelry.  We didn’t fare too badly, I only bought one bracelet, and Barbara almost bought a piece which was frowned upon, so she didn’t.

(the observant amongst us will note the wrong date on the camera.)


We boarded the boat, a Catamaran, which took us around the coastline, all very interesting rock formations… watching the seals gamboling around the small boats. Very tame. The pelicans are huge, yet I’ve been told they are nearly as big in Florida.

This small development is being built on the beach

 I found it quite lovely. Emyr however

tells us all it will be gone in a year




The rest of the time was spent by dodging Emyr who was desperately trying the convince the telephone operator that his credit card was OK, while we crept into the bazaar, to look at the local hand made crafts etc. It looked like a tent from the outside, and was like Alice-in-wonderland’s magic when you went inside. The locals were all very friendly.   It seems that the only commerce these indigenous Mexicans have is from the visiting Cruise ships…. There were three in at the same time as us. Holland America and Royal Caribbean. (We are of course the best being CELEBRITY!)      Our creeping put Emyr in dire mood, so we were ordered back to the ship.  FOOD FOOD….GIVE ME FOOD!


Next day  we have a full day at sea.  There is so much to do; we’ll never manage half of it. And that is apart from EATING! I braved the upper deck, very windy. This is our walking deck. We never quite worked out how many times round make a mile…



As it happens, Emyr and I had a light lunch in the dining room; it’s been quite healthy so far today. I sunbathed for a while, and then walked two miles with Barb on the deck first.

Emyr found an interesting lecture on Oceanography, which kept him quiet for most of the day, and I went to a line-dancing lesson with my new friend Cheryl (Dinner companion)


Thursday December 11, 2003


Slept late today, after an early night.  But I am feeling stronger by the day, and have just returned to our cabin at 12.30!  My My!




It was a great day for me in Acapulco.  I loved it. I kidnapped L$B and whopped them into a taxi  and whisked them into the flea market bazaar, where I headed for the leather shop to choose M.Louises boots, which are her Christmas present. I had a really good deal with almost two for the price of one and I couldn’t see a reason to say no.



 I loved the feel and smell and sight of Acapulco…. Needless to say, I was the only one who did!...

Then later, Emyr and I took off for a tour, and we headed inland and around and about. Very nice. (Apart from being dropped off for an hour at a shopping place we didn’t want to go to… the best part of it was the margarita which was the lure.)


 We went to an Hotel called Princess, which was the most opulent hotel I’ve ever seen.  Gardens were beautiful. Funny situation, a whole busload of people walking around this hotel and grounds while people were trying to enjoy their peace and quiet…   The gardens and waterfalls were absolutely breathtaking.  (Eat your heart out Juan.) (Juan built and designed our garden in Spain)

Horses on Private beach of Princess hotel, Acapulco.



If you look very closely you can see the diver half way down the rocl.  Another awaits at the top, both having said a prayer in the tiny chapel on the right hand side to ask for safe progress into the turbulent sea below.  This is a tradition which is so famous now that the divers have their own  union!  The waves come in and out very quickly, the timing has to be extremely precise.



Theatre tonight was a Mexican Mariachi band, very good. We expected to see them at the Tex Mex party tonight, but it was mainly line-dancing western stuff. Super. 


Friday December 12th



Not such a long day today, as we didn’t emerge until about 11 am! No breakfast for me… I went straight into lunch.

What a beautiful place, at the moment totally unspoilt. How long will that last?  Time will tell. We have bets on it… Emyr reckons 5 years and it will be another Cancun!  Very sweet place, (that is, until we had our mid-morning drink after the boat-ride…. 8 dollars US per person. Emyr explained to them in a Welsh fashion that they were all pirates.)


For 30dollars US the boat ride was fun, unfortunately we didn’t get the boat I had just spent an hour negotiating with, as Emyr came in in the middle and upset everything, so we ended up with a young guy with no English.  But never-the-less, (after our dramatic rescue bid to help an extremely overweight American lady who had fallen off the back of a jet-ski,) we tootled around the small bays and looked at at least five deserted beaches, and a cute marina. (Les spotted a rare bird which I did my best to capture on photo… ) (He`s a bit of a nut about birds, once he lost a whole springs sailing because a sparrow had nested in his furling gear…)







 Back to the ship… for me, a nap which lasted two hours…. Then Dinner.    Again.


 The show tonight was good, Lindsey Simon.  Then a late show, with the singing group ( the Sea Notes) and a comedian which Barbara and Leslie nearly choked over.

Needless to say, Emyr thought he was rubbish.

Night night…. 12.30.


NO - GO  Costa Rica Punta  Arenas.


Saturday 13th.


During the night, there was an emergency on board. When we awoke, we discovered (via a phone call from Les) that we had turned round in the night, and returned to  Huatapulco.  The patient was successfully transferred to hospital, ( we were told later)  and we continued our trip.  Barbara told me that at the last port of call, two body-bags were taken ashore… judging by the average on board this ship I`m not really surprised!  We were surmising how one would feel if a stateroom suddenly became vacant having been told that there were none available…


So it was an extra day at sea for us. Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum.


We had a cocktail party in the evening… then on to dinner where a Lieutenant Nina from Finland joined us at our table. 


Les and Barbara visited the table next door, which is when we met the lovely couple

Brenda and Ron, from Bath.



Emyr and I attended a lecture on the Panama Canal during the afternoon which we both found extremely interesting.  I’d like to get a video on it, I had no idea what an effort it was to build, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to learn about. 


Sunday 14th December.  Eileen and Freda’s birthday  RIP.(My Mum and Les`s Mum)


This is the day we should have been in Costa Rica.  Lots of people are disappointed, but we had a letter come through the door allocating us  $100 dollars, and the promise of another two free evening cocktail parties. (The booze is quite expensive otherwise, approx. $5 dollars per drink… and no outside booze to be brought in. As if we would.)


The most important fact we learned this morning is that SADAMM HUSSAIN has been captured at last.  Iraq will have mixed feeling about this I suppose.   A delicate problem now arises for the United States of America, shame he wasn’t shot.


Monday 15th December


A quiet day for me. We shall be in the locks of the Panama Canal tomorrow… I`m saving myself.

We had a wonderful “Special Dinner” during the evening.  12 of us, new friends on two tables in the SS. United States restaurant on deck 3.  Ken and Cheryl arranged it, photos will show how much we enjoyed ourselves.   After dinner, we all went bopping… well, most of us anyway. (Emyr didn`t make it)   I had to retire early at 1 am, as it`s an early start for us in the morning… I couldn`t drag Barbara off the dance floor, so left her to it with the rest of the youngsters.


Tuesday 16th December. 6.30 am

Air temp 79f -26c… Sea temp 82f-28c…NE 32 knots.. partly cloudy.. barometer 1008.


Yes, it really was 6.30 am…!



Well, the moment we`ve all been waiting for.  As I write, its 6.30 am.  I am watching a tug below me, maneuvering this huge vessel into the locks of this most amazing feat of engineering that I am certainly ever going to witness.   The project of this canal has been so fascinating to me for so long that I can`t believe I`m here.  We have been attending lectures on the history of this canal for the last few days, and as far as I`m concerned, it`s still history in the making. The photo`s will never do it justice for the total vastness of the structure`s we`re  passing through.

We are passing through a bridge which fold itself aside to allow boats through,  and when folded back again, becomes part of the road which allows traffic to pass from the pacific end to the Caribbean end of the isthmus.  This bridge was built in 1942… before I was.



Swivel bridge which cuts the road off to allow boats through.


 The lushness of the surrounding land, and the swamps we`re passing through, give me some idea of the conditions which many thousands of people (25000 men and women ) lost their lives to yellow fever and malaria when the French attempted to cut the canal at the beginning to the project in the late 1800`s


The first of two  locks (Mirafores)  raise us 27 feet. We will go up 54 feet altogether, and it will take one and half hours.




The little rowing boat in the picture, comes to greet the ship, and hurls a cable onto the waiting crewmembers, and this is attached to “Steel Mules” which hold the ship steady through the system.  Four on each side.


 In this age of technology, it`s still the best way they have managed to connect the boat to the dock… many other ways have been tried and tested, from firing pistols onto a target, etc, yet they still have to come out with the little boat and a man with a yellow hat.


 There is a space of 2 feet  on each side of the ship.


I am going to anoint myself with my insect repellant…..


We are heading North, Brilliance of the Seas is coming back the other way.

Tolls of 225,000 dollars after being measured.



After the first set of two locks, we cross the Miraflores lake, and enter the last set of locks on the Pacific side.  It´s the Pedro Miguel lock. Now we are 85 feet above sea level.  Then we go up the Gallard ( or Culebra ) cut for 12.6 Kilometres, which is the narrowest stretch of the Canal, and crosses the Continental Divide into Gatun lake.


Gatun lake is the largest artifial lake in the world. It will take two hours to cross, (and we will drop the people off to do their tours.)


The lake was created by building a damm at Gamboa,  to trap the water from the Chagres,  (it now provides the electricity for the entire area. ) and a temporary damm was built at the opposite end.  They then flooded the entire area, and when the temporary damm was later finished with and destroyed, the water flows both ways, into the Carib and also the Pacific.  Thus the locks are able to operate using the force of gravity, with fresh water,  as opposed to salt water being pumped up 26 metres from below the waterway channel. 


26 million gallons of fresh water is right now being transferred from the river Chagres….. at the rate of 3 million gallons per minute. There is however, plenty of water to spill, as it rains 8 months of the year, to the tune of  100 inches per year.

There are 52 million gallons spilt per ship, and on average, 34 ships per day.


There is a lot of  vegetation on either side, and a small boat goes around perpetually, picking up flotsam and jetsom.  Our lecturer told us that Manitees have been imported to try and keep it down, as they are vegetarian  fresh water mammals, but it`s unlikely that we will see them.


Now that`s interesting, isn`t it?


 We have decided to stay on the ship for this time, I don`t think Emyr could take the humidity… it`s really hot outside. (I love it!)  It is now half way through our natural day…. Its 10.45 am!  Back to bed.


Having spent the day on the lake Gaton, at 3.00 ish we disembarked the people who are going ashore.   This lake is much higher than sea level, it seems odd, the lake at the top of the world!   Now at 4 pm we are lifting anchor, and heading for the last three gates of this lock. We shall meet the tour people on the other side. 26 million of gallons of fresh water again to be spilt… a lot isn´t it?  We catch up with them at six, it´s going to take all this time to get through. Then we can go ashore, don`t know what that will be like, Cristobal. Its a dockage port I`ve heard. We`ll see.  So that was three locks upwards, lake-time, and now three locks downwards. 

Very interesting, the fact that the lock system is necessary due to the fact that the Pacific his 25 foot tides, the Carib has 2 foot tides.  A cut direct at sea level wouldn`t work due to sheer physics.  Also, should it ever happen, all sorts of migratory creatures would find their way into each others oceans, and there are a lot of nasties that you don`t get in the Carib that you find in the Pacific… Poisonous sea snakes to mention but a few hundred.


We heard that another person was taken off the ship this morning.  (by ambulance)

So lets count up…  Two body bags the first stop ashore… the man we turned the ship round for ( we heard today that he died two hours after he went ashore)  and now today one more.  I said to Cheryl, that if this carries on, we will be the oldest on the ship eventually!  Terrible.  The average age of this ship, as I think I mentioned before, is about 70! (When you see the difference between most of the others, and us, you soon realize that we don`t count in this equasion.)


I must say at this point that this is the most unlike Christmas Christmas I have yet encountered… it`s about 85f. and like smoking the humidity. I`m sitting on my terrace watching events, in my bikini, catching up on my Christmas story.  Apart from Scrooge that is….


 The cabin is air-conditioned, and very cold, so to get the camera  aclimatised to the heat we have to leave it outside. We are watching a small ( well OK, it´s 62 ft) yacht come through… it looks quite tiny. Vivace is the name.  They tie up to the tug, and they have to be right up front near the gates because the container ship is right behind them.


OK, through the last lock. It´s 5.45. Due I San Cristobal at 6pm. We can go ahore, but dinner is at 8.30, so it doesn`t give us long. We leave again at 11 pm, next stop is Aruba, Dutch Carib.    This will take a whole Sea Day


Thursday Dec



And here we are in Aruba, we arrived at 7 am, however, with all the clock changes we have been forced into, one step forward, two steps back, it´s difficult to know what the actual time is. This time yesterday was an hour earlier…

Yesterday, our last sea day, was quite good fun. I met up with “The Girls” in the afternoon, that is (starting from the tallest) Sheila, Kathy, Cheryl and myself caused general hilarity through the ship. Even the waiters joined in with our joke sessions!


I was too tired to imbibe in general jollity during the evening, and retired immediately after I finished my dinner.




This is our last sea day… and our last day on the boat. Yesterday  (Friday) was a general rush of last minute shopping (for some) and culminated in the most amazing Formal Night.  It was a great night.  We haven´t had a formal picture taken at all, so all the photos are on my camera and others…, all promised to be delivered by e-mail, so we shall see.


And so to the packing. As usual I have had to buy another small case ( dirty washing of course) and we have to put the cases out during the day after 6  but before midnight. We have to meet up at 7.30 am tomorrow, for the customs and immigration.

The Last Day

Total confusion reigns.  Pink tickets, brown tickets, mauve – not to be confused with pink, blue not to confused with purple…. Eventuaually we all ended up outside the terminal heading for Christmas.

When our bus arrived, we discovered that … yes that was wat it was… a bus. ( In England you would call it a single decker.)

All in all, a cheery waay to end a cheery cruise.

Thank you all.