Two dozen UW alumni and friends spent the beginning of March on board a cruise ship that navigated a very unique path — the Panama Canal.
After departing from Costa Rica, these Wisconsin Alumni Association travelers sailed through the Caribbean Sea for nearly two weeks, visiting tropical islands and making new friends on deck. But many Badgers found the day-long journey through the historic Panama Canal the most breathtaking and unforgettable experience of the entire adventure.
The Panama Canal was built in 1914 and today, more than 12,000 ships pass through its locks each year. Susan Sheehan, WAA Director of Membership and host of this tour, describes what it was like to weave through the historic canal.
“We were up early the day we entered the canal, vying with fellow passengers for a prime spot on the top deck. At sunrise, those of us with cameras had the pleasure of capturing on film the beauty of downtown Panama City on the horizon as we neared the entrance to the Canal, and what would be the first in a series of three sets of locks.
"Each time we entered a lock, it appeared there was no way we could make it through the narrow passageway, but each time we did — without scraping the sides! — and witnessed other large ships doing the same. As the day wore on, some of us got back into other activities and what would become routine of our 'days at sea.' However, since it took nine hours to travel the 51 mile crossing, there were plenty of opportunities throughout the day to return to deck or take in the view from a window as we cruised along. Early in the day, the ship's photographers were able to hop off at the locks and take individual and group photos of the many passengers on deck. They put those pictures on display, and we all enjoyed seeing the expressions captured of our fellow passengers as they entered the Canal and got their first looks.
"We had four ports-of-call during the rest of our trip, and even though they were all beautiful Caribbean islands, the day we traveled through the Canal had special historical meaning. I'll always remember it as the highlight of this wonderful cruise."