Panama Canal Update

Earlier thiDSC_0256s month I was able to take OCEAN PRINCESS on its final voyage, 64-days around South America including a transit or the Panama Canal.  Lucky for us we followed our sister ship, ISLAND PRINCESS, through the Canal.

Next month I will be speaking to a convention group in Panama City, then joining them for an evening dinner at Miraflores Visitor Center and the next day we will all take the ferry tour through the Canal.  The Canal is still a busy place even as construction winds down and with 98% of the expansion completed, testing and trials of the new lock complexes begin.  Here’s the fascinating progress report from the Canal de Panama …

On the 64-day voyage of OCEAN PRINCESS I shared the lecture stage with Steve Noble, an excellent communicator and a superb photographer.  Here’s his time-lapse video of our journey through the Canal.  It took us over 9 hours but with Steve’s video you can catch a glimpse of a Canal transit in just 7 minutes!


The Artist Freyzer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeven years ago my first contract with Princess was on the former ROYAL PRINCESS, the small “R-class” ship since shoved down the line and now scheduled to sail for Carnival’s new fathom Cruises, Carnival’s do-gooder, give-back-to-society shot at making a positive impact rather than the sometimes negative impact cruising makes on a society. [It’s actually a fantastic idea! Check it out! Trips to the Dominican Republic and … ta dah! … Cuba!]

Arriving at Boca da ValeriaAnyway my first trip working for Princess was from Europe to Manaus, Brazil, and then spending several months doing the run from Ft Lauderdale up the Amazon to Manaus. On the Amazon we would stop at a little, and I do mean little, village beside the river called Boca da Valeria, nicknamed by the crew Boca da Malaria. It was a tiny, tiny village, and in my humble opinion not one where the visit of the cruise ships had a positive impact. Try as I might I couldn’t get guests, or crew, to stop giving out candy to the kids in order I suspect to feel like the great, white whatevers. The village was lucky to see a visiting dentist once a year! And not just the kids: everyone in this poor village was hustling for money. Little kids dressed up in feathers begging for dollars and kids with evBrazil 303ery kind of animal on a string posing for dollars. In an effort to protect the rain forest Brazil outlawed exporting ANY kind of wood product, so although local artisans had beautiful wood carvings they weren’t allowed back on the ship.

In all this there was a kid … well he was just a kid then … who was selling his paintings. They were primitive, but some of them I thought showed real promOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAise.  His name Freyzer Andrade.

We visited Boca da Valeria and Parintins for several months, every ten days, and I always chatted with Freyzer who knew enough English to talk about his hopes and dreams of going to art school.  Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to keep in touch with Freyzer through the years and watch him grow as a man, tour guide, eventually working on Holland America traveling the world and hanging out in all the great museums and galleries, and 17311_679293285548631_3629848944139645144_nmost of all I’ve watched him become this incredibly gifted artist.  He has had shows in various cities around the world, and actually been accepted to various art schools and to work in connection with museums in Florida … with only one problem … the US won’t give him a visa.
Freyzer recently posted this on Facebook …

Tentei marcar os pontos no mapa com as minhas andanças por aí.. o sonho de um garoto se tornou realidade.Atualmente sou um artista profissional autodidata e domino as técnicas com tinta a óleo, acrílico e aquarela. Atraves da arte ja estive em diferentes partes do mundo mostrando as belezas da Amazônia a bordo de navios cruzeiros ms Maasdam e ms Prinsendam da companhia Holland America Line entre outros.
A arte é minha vida e vou fazer isso até o dia que eu parar de respirar. Enquanto isso não acontece, continuarei me movimentando pra onde a arte quiser me levar.

Minha religião é a arte . . . . Obrigado DEUS por me permitir ser um artista.

Freyzer's Travels
Freyzer’s Travels

And for those of us who don’t read Portuguese, the automated translation …

I tried to mark the points on the map with my wanderings around.. The dream of a boy has become a reality. Currently I am a professional artist auto-Didact
and conquer the techniques with ink the oil, acrylic and aquarel. Through the art I was already in different parts of the world showing the beauties of the Amazon on board ships cruise liners ms maasdam and ms prinsendam of the company Holland America line among others.

Art is my life and I will do this until the day I stop breathing. While this is not me, I will continue moving to where the art wants to take me.

My religion is the art. ………… . Thank you God for allowing me to be an artist.

So what’s the fuss? See for yourself …

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If you’re a high-powered attorney who knows your way around the visa process, front and back doors, an Ambassador or someone with US pull, an art lover, or a collector who wants an early Freyzer … let me know and I will put you in touch with The Artist.

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Habla Ya -#3 Hiatus With Lots of Tarea

After four weeks a Spanish at Habla Ya, one-on-on with a really great teacher, Yaira Munoz, Princess called … and when you work for a Princess, when she calls you listen. Going in Habla Ya realized that my assignments on ships happen, sometimes last-minute, and promised to work with me. One of the things I like about Habla Ya is that they will work with you to achieve your goals. My wife had started in a class for local expats and this is the second year she has taken this expat series of classes. Well some of the others in the class had to leave early, so wanted to speed things up, which wasn’t working for Nikki, and so Habla Ya put her in another class. It just really depends on you and I appreciate Habla Ya’s willingness to work with your schedule and goals.

Yaira Habla YaYaira was telling me about another student who came from Germany not knowing any Spanish with the single goal to learn Spanish for business. Like most Habla Ya students he was in an immersion program, living with a local family and taking private classes seven hours [7 hours!!] a day, five days a week, and on weekends taking advantage of the tours and outings, of course in Spanish, offered by Habla Ya. In three weeks he was speaking Spanish, maybe not yet with all the tenses, but Speaking “like a native.”

So, knowing I will be off on CARIBBEAN PRINCESS for a month with nothing to do but visit 16 ports of call in 12 countries, give 28 lectures, and answer port questions from 3,000 people, Jaira has loaded me down with Spanish homework [“tarea”]. Interestingly one of the options Habla Ya has available is to do classes online, which would have been a good option except for the fact that shipboard Internet is notoriously slow and expensive.

Hopefully I will find a couple of other crew members from Mexico or Spain who will help me perfect my Spanish pronunciation in the crew bar if I buy them drinks. Of course, just like English, every country pronounces things differently and uses different words for different things, not to mention that too many $1.50 drinks in the crew bar may not be that helpful for my Spanish education. Hell, I could probably visit the Cantina across from the new market in downtown Boquete on Saturday night and get the same thing!

Habla Ya- #1 With Fear & Trepidation

Habla Ya – #2 Why The Spanish Lost The New World

Habla Ya -#3 Hiatus With Lots of Tarea