Posted by: Chad | April 27, 2010

The Ship, Panama, Costa Rica and Belize

A few weeks back, I took a vacation (cruise) to Panama, Costa Rica and Belize.  As a individual with my “experience” (some call it age), it is always great to meet new people, see new places and do new things. Especially those people, places and things that leave a lasting impression on you.  Following are some of the top observations, moments and lasting impressions from our trip:

Garbage.  Based on my observations and without doing the homework, I assume that garbage disposal is a private enterprise in Panama and Costa Rica and it is optional.  Most dumpsters overflowed and most poor looking neighborhoods had piles of trash out the back door or on the lot somewhere.

Construction and Housing.  The rich were rich and the poor were poor.  It was very hard to figure out where the middle class lived in these countries.  For the most part building were dirty (our tour guide cited the climate as a factor).  The poorer areas were very rundown, even falling apart, but then as you looked out over Panama City there was much construction.

Bagged Water.  Maybe I don’t get out much, but this was one of the coolest consumer goods that I saw on the entire trip.  Rather that the cost of bottled water (packaging, recycling, etc), in Belize we were given bagged water in what appeared to be a simple form and fill bag.

Panama Canal.  We were fortunate enough to arrive at the Gatun Locks when a ship was passing through.  I was able to shoot some video.  It was amazing to see first hand what the canal is able to do.  We then took a bus from the Caribbean side of Panama to the Pacific side along the canal. This put into perspective the size, truly amazing.  Apparently Panama is in the process of building another set of locks to accommodate even larger ships.  I believe they said this will be done in 2014.

Dramamine.  Go ahead, laugh, I can take it.  I suspected prior to going on this cruise that I was not a “cruise guy”.  I was right.  Waking up in the middle of the night swaying from side to side was awful.  At times, I thought I was going to roll out of bed.  My savior, Dramamine.

Banana Plantation.  Going into it, I did not think that going to a Banana Plantation would be very interesting, but it proved to be quite the experience.  I find it very interesting that a bundle of banana’s get cut one day in Costa Rica and within the next 45-60 days it has to be consumed, somewhere in the world.  We saw the entire process (which appeared very simple) from the time the bananas were cut until they were put in the box, and into trucks.  At the Del Monte Plantation, the employees were given places to live and discounted food, so they did not have to go into town for the basics.  Yet, they were still paid very well.  And if you ever eat a banana with a Del Monte #90004 sticker on it, I WAS THERE!

Snorkeling in Belize.  Our excursion in Belize was a snorkeling trip to the second largest coral reef in the world.  It was our first time snorkeling.  The girls, who are good swimmers, took to it immediately.  They were #1 and #2 right behind the guide  This allowed me to stray from the group and do some shallow dives.  The fish were amazing.  the best way to describe them would be, exactly like you see them on TV, really.

The Wildlife.  It was a family trip, so, yes, I am referring to animals.  We saw a sloth in Panama, howler monkeys in Costa Rica and (above) plenty of marine life in Belize.

Panama Police.  After the U.S. invaded in 1989 and Noriega was deposed, Panama got rid of its military.  You wouldn’t know it if you saw the police force.  The last time I saw police that well armed was on Capitol Hill in D.C. after 9-11.  Let’s just say it was odd.

The Food Business.  Because it is the business I have always been in, I could not miss an opportunity to see those things relating to the food business.  We saw cashew trees and tasted its fruit in Panama.  We also saw almond trees.  We saw and split open cocoa beans in Costa Rica.  We ate the freshest pineapple, bananas and coconut I have ever tasted in Costa Rica.  The food on the ship was excellent, led by the eggs benedict for breakfast, the sushi appetizer for dinner and the lemon souffle that I had for dessert on the last night.  With that said, I did not have an average meal in the dining room, everything far exceeded my expectations.  And of course, I took a galley tour on the boat, WOW, what an operation.

The entire vacation was full of new experiences.


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