Yesterday was Panama Canal day. It is always a great experience to see the canal in action. I have been through eight times now. But I had forgotten how beautiful it is in the Gatun Lake in the middle of the country. Watching the lock system is facinating, especially when you consider this entire canal was built and still operates as it was first created almost 100 years ago.
The onboard canal expert, Richard Morgan, had a follow-up discussion today about the upgrade to the canal currently underway. The era of Post-Panamax will begin in 2014 with the opening of newer, longer, wider and deeper locks and a widened channel.
Even with the current limitations the canal can accommodate most cruise ships built before 2000, but not all. The current “Panamax” limitations are about 965 feet long, 106 feet wide and less that 40 feet deep.
The new “Post Panamax” ships can be 180 feet wide and have length of 1400 feet (the length of the lock may be 1600 to 2000 feet, this is is still being discussed, but few cruise ships are longer than 1000 feet). The allowable draft will be 50 feet.
The new locks will recycle up to 65% of the water in the locks by using holding basins and pumps. The canal currently fills the locks from Gatun Lake usinbg nothing but gravity. There is plenty of rainfall in Panama so it is not a problem. But the new locks will work in tangent with the old ones, so the amount of water being used will increase significantly. Today, the Panama Canal carries about 5% of all of the sea-going content in the world.
The news locks will be made with Chinese steel. That is one of the few pre-determined facts. Interesting. It is also known there will bo no locomotive mules, just tugboats and the ships’ own propulsion systems.
Following the Post Panamax discussion we were treated to a talk by Don Shula. Don isn’t just an NFL coach, he is THE NFL coach, having won more games than any coach in history, 325. His stories were entertaining and inspirational. He has a humble sense of humor that reminds you that the most accomplished athletes in the world never act overly macho.
Don went to the Superbowl six times and won twice. His ring was impossible to miss. His best story had to do with a couple of missed calls by a referee named Jim Tunney, who also happens to be a speaker on this cruise.
Here is the important thing about Crystal. While this cruise is 16 days and onlu has four ports, the days at sea are never boring. We have at least three enrichment speakers every day. In addition, I have my music classes, dance classes, reflexology, computer seminars, language, painting…
And did I mention food. Truly, the food here has been consistently excellent. Especially the beef which is incredibly tender. We had “surf & turf” one night with Maine Lobster and Filet Mignon, and both were equally tender and melted in your mouth. More later from Crystal Serenity…