Cruisin’–Yah, Mon!

- by Charlotte Hubbard

Author Victoria Holt died aboard a cruise ship. Me, I’d really rather live on one!

Here’s pictorial proof that you can ply your writing trade in a stateroom: the new iPad and keyboard were awesome! Kept in touch via email, ripped up the sample chapters I’d stalled on to revamp them in a different POV, played a few games in the airport and listened to my iPod playlists. All with a gadget that slips into my purse. And now it’s a cool way to show off my trip pix, too!

Wow, what a trip we had on our Panama Canal cruise for 15 days! I’ve been keeping my tush in the chair writing proposals–and damn glad for the opportunity–ever since we got back, so this post will be brief and very pictorial! Just some highlights and observations about this voyage that took us in a huge circle: flew from St. Louis to sail from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Stopped in Montego Bay, Jamaica; Cartagena, Colombia; cruised the Canal for an entire day; Puntaneras, Costa Rica; and then Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico before disembarking at San Francisco to fly home. A day at sea between each of those ports, with a balcony on our stateroom. Truly the trip of a lifetime!

Here’s the front end of our ship as we enter the Canal–and yes, that’s a freakin’ ROAD running in front of the first lock gates! How would you like to be the patient in that ambulance looking out the window?! The engineering of this lock and dam system has been in place for 100 years–so what happens to that road when it’s time for the ship to fully enter the lock? Each half retracts into the side walls! Oh–they stop the car traffic first!

And here’s the front end (helipad) of our ship when the lock wall’s about to swing open so ALL THAT WATER you see will float us up to the level required to get into the next lock. It’s a tight fit: we had about 6 feet forward and aft between us and those walls, and only 2 feet of leeway on each side.

A totally different vessel altogether: Neal and I rode a bamboo raft down a shallow, peaceful river in Montego Bay. Had a guy with a long pole guiding us around the rocks. He also rubbed soft river limestone into pumice and gave me a foot massage–that’s the white stuff you see on my feet, drying. Rinsed it off (and yeah, collected his tip!) when we got to the end point. Then we sampled piña coladas made with fresh pineapple, coconut they picked right there, and the local rum that makes everyone in Jamaica smile and say, “Yah, mon,” a lot.

Last but certainly not least, here’s the guy I really wanted to bring home with me! Our Indonesian table waiter at dinner, Hasrul (hoss-RULE), called me by name the second day, no matter where we saw him working at other meals. For 15 days he took my orders, brought fabulous food, made me laugh as he chatted in cute English, cleared away the dishes and all those pieces of silverware only he and God know the use for, and was kind enough to keep showing us the dessert teaser tray without any remarks about how we really didn’t need those calories! What a guy!

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