Cruise Articles - Cruise Reviews : To the Panama Canal with Ruby Turner and  Holland America Line

Ruby's Progress - My cruise to the Panama Canal

by Ruby Turner

Alaska cruise with Holland America LineA regular columnist for the Vancouver Sun, Ruby Turner sails on her cruise with Holland America Line from Vancouver, Canada down the west coast and through the Panama Canal. Reporting from the internet room of her cruise ship, the ms Ryndam, Ruby keeps us updated on the latest experiences as they unfold.

REPORTING OCTOBER 10th 2010 - The End of the Journey

 Wrong Photos and Mistaken Identities

It is said the first 24 hours of any cruise is always a busy day for passengers and crew. The unexpected and challenging events of the first day of my cruise have created a great supply of travel stories. I hope my telling of what happened gives readers an idea of what can happen even to those of us who have thought they were in charge of their travel plans.

Holland America Line - ms RyndamPhoto: ms Ryndam - Holland America Line

It started when we got out of the taxi at Canada Place. The luggage handlers had their hands on our bags as soon as the trunk of the taxi was opened. We explained we would carry our bags onboard ourselves. This seemed to promote a general shaking of heads and some muttering as if were eithercheap or we didn't understand the proper baggage procedure. As we clutched our bags we were told to follow the woman in the green coat. When we caught up to the woman it seemed she was lost and looking for her friend. Luckily her friend arrived within minutes and we all proceeded into the embarakation area.

Maybe it was the fact that we are in the month of September but the check-in procedure reminded me of the first day of a school term. We were told where to line up and where to stand. We were the told where to sit and wait to be called to the check-in desk. Our actual check-in was handled by a trainee from a travel school. He was enthusitic and asked us if we minded if he took his time as were his very first passengers. Not a problem, or so I thought. He seemed to have trouble saving information and the photo taking seemed to challenge him. I started to have my doubt when he said we were travelling with such a large group and it would be fun but crowded. It seems he put all the passengers with the sirname of Turner in one cabin. I managed to straighten that one out.

The other problems didn't come to light until after we got onboard. My passenger card has someone else' photo, another Turner probably, and somewhere else on board there could be someone with my picture. I have had mine corrected so I won't have a problem getting on and off at the next port but someone isn't going to match my photo or her card.

First thing after boarding the ship we had the boat drill. These drills just aren't what they use to be. Passengers don't have to bring their life jackets and we were still tied up to Canada Place. The announcement said we would hear the sounding of seven long blast which would be what we would hear if we had to head to our lifeboat stations. We were only into the third blast when two other cruise ships tied up at Canada Place started to sound their emergency blasts. I lost count at 15 blasts but no one seemed to panic.

We had a delicious evening meal at the opening sitting and were lucky enough to be to join a group of passengers from the Lower Mainland. We talked about cruising and all that was happening with our local governments and other current affairs. The subject of how many suitcases we had brought and of course a woman remarked about the article she had read in the Vancouver Sun about how some woman was cruising with just a back pack. I couldn't sit there without correcting her that it was not a back pack it was a carry on case and I had written the article. I enjoyed the group laugh until the woman said she didn't recognize me from the photo in the Sun. I looked much older in person.

This morning I have made a trip up to the exercise room but have decided to leave the exercising until I have my sea legs. Time now just to stroll around the ship and enjoy doing very little. Another day at sea tomorrow and then San Diego.

 Tacos, San Diego and the Book Club

Four days into this cruise and I am feeling right at home. It is a full ship and Canadians make up the majority of passengers. It seems like a bit of the Olympic spirit is still with us and there is a general feeling of celebration as we all share in a great experience.

Today, after three days of cruising we had a full day in San Diego. Over past visits we have enjoyed the zoo, marine world and other highlights of this seaside city so today we decided to do a walking tour. We had a leisurely stroll us through Little Italy with lots of restaurants and coffee shops. For lunch, we decided to check out a Mexican restaurant popular on the Food Network and in a number of movies.

Tacos in San Diego
Tacos in San Diego - photo courtesy Gregor Turner

The Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop is located at 1810 W. Washington Street and it took about 45 minutes to walk from the ship. If you don't want the walk there are pedi-cabs at the dock that will be happy to take you. Arrive early, and hungry. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. for lunch but the lineup starts at 10:30. I'm finding it hard to describe the food. Better for you to check at We had the best quesadilla possible for only $5.85. It was enough for two of us and there was still leftovers.

Tonight I have joined up the ship's book club. There are three of us. The librarian, the tour director and the writer. The library has 52 copies of the book so we are hoping to find new members. I'll keep you posted.

 Cabo San Lucas and more on the Book Club

Photo courtesy

A quiet day at sea today after a interesting visit to Cabo San Lucas yesterday. Sailing into Cabo has to be the best way to arrive. The rocky cliff formations and the hidden coves make it easy to imagine the days of pirates and sailing ships. I always feel a bit sorry for travellers arriving at any port by air as the thrill of seeing something on the horizon appear and then materialize into your destination is always exciting.

We spent the day walking along the very busy boardwalk. We walked past the new restaurants and headed straight to the orginal Solomon's Landing for cool drinks and tasty food. It is a great place to people watch and enjoy all the fishing boats coming in and out of the bay with flocks of pelicans chasing the bait thrown overboard.

There are several tourist information booths along the pathway on the harbour. You will find internet access at Booth#2. Free WiFi is available at Starbucks and Cabo Coffee Co.

If you looking for a longer stay in Cabo than a one-day port call, check out Tesoro Resort at I checked some of the rooms and a large marine view room is being offered at $125 Canadian dollars. This includes breakfast and taxes. You might want to check WestJet packages as this hotel is included in their offers. The concierge at the hotel suggested not taking the all inclusive as there are so many great restaurants all within easy walking distance. There are junior suites with cooking facilities but I don't know who would want to come to Cabo and cook. If you are looking for this options have a look at the large selection of condos to rent. There is a Costco and Walmart behind the main town so you can stock up on supplies.

After having been on board almost a full week, I can report on the three control issues with most cruisers. First and foremost, eating. The food selection on the Ryndam has been the best I have found on any cruise. I enjoy it and savour the fact I do not have to cook it or clean up. We chose the open sitting option and have met a number of interesting cruisers sharing tables. Lots of good stories full of adventure and life experiences.

Exercising is going well. Without a really good excuse to skip exercising, many of us just fit it into our morning routine. The options include walking the deck (four times equal one mile) tai chi or the use of the full range of workout machines.

Two interesting changes in cruising. One, cheap drinks. It is now possible to order house (ship?) wine for $5 a glass. This is cheaper than most restaurants in Vancouver. Of course there is still a good choice of fine wines for those that enjoy the pleasure.

The other change is the absence of trays in the self-serve restaurants. While many cruisers complain about having to make several trips during the meal, they are becoming accustomed to this new procedure. It seems it has reduced the amount of wastage from leftover foods drastically. With trays it was just too easy to load up and then find you couldn't finish what you thought you could.

I'm off now to the book club meeting. We are up to 16 members. The librarian is leading the discussion. He told me this morning that this is his first cruise assignment. It seems his last job was a high school basketball coach in Texas. It should make for an interesting discussion.

I'll keep you posted.

 Internet Connections and more on the Book Club

Photo courtesy Cunard Line

Connecting by Internet while cruising is like gambling. It can look promising but you know chances are you are going to loose. After five days of unbelievable slow connections, I would suggest cruiser to bring their own laptops or hand held devices and use them onshore at the free WiFi outlets. The money you say from using the on board system can almost pay for the laptop.

One carry on bag is just fine for bringing all you need for a 21-day cruise. The laundry rooms on located on each deck and have plenty of washers and dryers. It seems old rituals are still observed as Monday mornings has the highest turnout of women doing laundry. Plan to do yours on a Thursday and you'll have the room to yourself.

Book club is going well. There is a wide range of opinions among members with such a diversity of background and life experiences. Comments of the book selection "Like Water for Chocolate" range from a comedy of life to a spiritual awakening of a tortured soul. I choose the middle road.

 The End of the Journey

With just two more days at sea, I'm taking advantage of the easy life for as long as I can. As much as I enjoy travelling, I always enjoy heading home. It seems to the perfect combination of experiencing something new and being content with what you know.

Cruising provides every opportunity to travel with ease with a variety of options for adventure. If you consider yourself "not the cruise type", think of cruising as a means of transportation. Don't worry about shore excursions with a group, just do a bit of research before you leave home and you'll be ready to plan your own day trips when you arrive onshore. Or, just stay on board and enjoy the quiet ship while in port.

On board you can find quiet corners in the library or in one of the many lounges where you can spend the day doing just what you want. I have talked to travellers who have judged cruising on just one experience and unfortunately it was not one they wanted to repeat. I suggest you wait a few years and give it another try.

It is a great way to relax and sit back and just take it easy for awhile. Readers living in the Vancouver area have a great advantage of just getting a ride down to the dock before boarding one of the many cruises that call into Vancouver. A return trip to Alaska means no flying at all or the Panama Cruise means just one flight home from Florida. I'll be writing about cruise tips in my next regular column in the Vancouver Sun. Let me know if you have any specific questions at [email protected].


Visit Holland America Line at

Ruby Turner
Ruby Turner

Ruby Turner is an enthusiastic traveller and former industry professional. She held the position of Marketing Administrator for American Express Travel Canada before beginning a career in television and as a regular columnist for the Vancouver Sun. Her articles appear across Canada as part of CanWest Publication Network as well as appearing in international newspapers and on numerous websites.

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