Back to Boston

family-vacations-bostons-public-gardensWhen I was five, we moved from Altoona, Pennsylvania to Boston so my dad could attend Gordon College.  We lived in a student apartment in the basement of the college which was located beside the park in front of the Isabella Gardner Museum.   I played in the park, went to Farragut School, and got to go to Saturday morning art programs for kids down the way at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  We’d attend church at Park Street Church and, when I was lucky, after church I’d get to ride the famous Swan Boats across the street in the Public Garden.

Four years later, when we moved to Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, I got teased unmercifully because of my Bostonian accent.  As if people from Philadelphia area talk normal!

My first year of college I went back to Boston.  By that time Gordon College had moved out to Wenham and among other discoveries developed a taste for steamer clams.  That and lobster … and I enjoyed more than my fair share.  So eventually I developed a shellfish allergy … I guess too much of a good thing.

One of the things I love about doing Canada/New England cruises is that it gets me back to Boston and usually a stop in Gloucester which is just down the road from Wenham. And this year once again I get to sail out of Boston on a Grand New England cruise to some of the best ports on the coast of Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  I’ve had fun working on my talks including a fun, new one “Cockroach of the Sea” which isn’t about another new RCCL mega ship but lobster which, way back when, because of its abundance and low-class reputation, was known as cockroach of the sea.  This is a “Lobster” cruise featuring, among other things, a down east lobster bake … and me allergic to lobster.

87-0ce41cbe63d0aThis is on a brand new American Cruise Lines small ship, the AMERICAN CONSTITUTION.  American is a sister company of Pearl Seas Cruises with whom I have been spending time in Cuba, on the Great Lakes and Canada/New England.  The ship hold onlys 175 guests and is an U.S. American flagged ship which means it was built in the U.S. and has a U.S. crew enabling it to sail between U.S. ports.  So we’ll be sailing from Boston, to Camden, Rockford, Bar Harbor, Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard, Newport, Gloucester, Boothbay and Portland.  Lot’s and lots of lobster!  American Cruise Lines is pretty much all-inclusive with rates starting at around $6085 per person, so it is very nice!

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I tell my wife that if we had all the money in the world we’d have our own yacht, but then I’d have all kinds of maitenance and personnel hassles.  Now, with ships like PEARL MIST and AMERICAN CONSTITUTION, I get to enjoy “my yacht” with a few friends, someone else worries about all the hassles, and i get paid for it.  While I love all kinds of cruising with lots of great companies, there is definitely something special about small ship cruising.  We have no casino, no rock climbing wall, no water park and we don’t sell water, drinks, the restaurants with the “good” food, Botox treatments, teeth whitening, or art work.  And there are no lines!

 

 

Why are so many people interested in Panama?

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Yesterday we greeted visitors to this blog from the United States, Canada, Thailand, Mexico, Panama, United Kingdom, Japan, Greece, Costa Rica, Japan and Australia, and that’s a pretty typical mix of where visitors come from on a typical day.

Why this great interest in Panama?  

Well Panama has always been at the crossroads of the world.  Geographically, but also in terms of its strategic and political importance.  Yes, today it is bolivar_arturo_michelenalargely because of the Canal and one of the largest international hub airports in the Americas.  But even before the Canal … during the Spanish conquest, as Spain started sending back the treasures of the New World, most of that went through Panama City, then “the richest city in the world.”

The great liberator of Latin America, Simon Bolivar, once said, “If the world had a capital it would be Panama.”

Today the attraction of Panama is …

  • It is at the “crossroads of the world,” “the hub of the Americas.”
  • It is a neutral country, a peacemaker on the world scene not given to stirring up conflict and anxiety.
  • It has one of the most, if not the most, robust economies in the region.
  • It uses the US dollar, calls it the “Balboa” but it is in fact the US dollar, still considered by most to be one of the most secure currencies in the world.
  • It is outside the hurricane zone.

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  • It is safe and peaceful.
  • It is still in many ways relatively affordable.
  • Although officially a Christian, Roman Catholic country, it has total religious freedom with large groups of Jews, Muslims, Evangelicals and many smaller faiths.  It is home to a Mormon Temple and a Bahai Temple.
  • Because it has been at the crossroads of the world, Panama is composed of a rainbow of people from different cultures and backgrounds.  Panamanians come in all shapes and colors and live and work happily together, and in fact Panama has scored as one of the “happiest” countries in the world.
  • Anyone can own property in Panama.

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  • For most people, assuming you have no criminal record and you come from one of the many of Panama’s “friendly nations,” it is easy to get permanent residency and after five years you can get a Panamanian passport.
  • It is tropical, with lush foliage, no snow, no big time changes, and tropical climates ranging from hot & humid to the cool, year-round Spring-like climate of Boquete and Volcan.
  • Panama has beautiful beaches, snorkeling and diving, and some of the most fantastic fishing in the world.
  • For 27 years Panama has been a thriving democracy. [Presidents are limited to one 5-year term, then must sit out 10 years before being able to be re-elected.  Politics are grass-roots.  People are elected based on party and program and not TV ads and robocalls.  There are three parties with passionate followers but no great political divide, since everyone pretty much wants the same things and it’s just a question of which group is going to pocket the money for the next five years.  Candidates are typically all slightly right-of-center business people.  When elections are over everyone just works together to move the country forward.  Once in a while there is a fist fight on the floor of the Assembly, which may actually be a better way of resolving differences than perpetually blocking all progress.]
  • Panama is not a one-pony economy but has strong international banking, is home to many of the world’s largest corporations, has registry of about 25% of the world’s ships, has the world’s second largest free trade zone, is a rapidly expanding airport hub of the Americas, and has a booming tourist industry.
  • And, oh yes, did I mention … The Panama Canal.

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Thinking about Panama?

  1. Get my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE all about our experience moving and retiring in Panama.  As my expat neighbors say, “Richard tells it like it is!”
  2. Check out the Welcome To Panama List of Friendly Nations
  3. Come on down and check it out for yourself!  Panama is not for everyone, but it just may be the Paradise you are looking for!

 

Best Videos About The Panama Canal

If you’ve transited the Panama Canal, or are planning a Panama Canal Cruise, you will definitely want to get a copy of my book PANAMA CANAL DAY.  The book is loosely based on the commentary I give from the bridge on ships transiting the Canal … but much expanded.  It’s great background, not just about the history of the Canal, but  how that history fits into the history of Panama and the Americas.

Most of the ships I’ve been on transiting the Panama Canal show old, outdated videos about the Canal, typically telling only the part of the story about the US construction, even, as in the case of the David McCullough video, questioning if Panama will be able to successfully manage the Canal! The gigantic mass-market cruise ships happily use the Canal as a sales toll to generate bookings, but once they get you onboard treat the Canal and Panama Canal day as a giant inconvenience to the main goal of getting you to spend money. Sometimes I think they forget the reason why people booked a Panama Canal Cruise in the first place.

So, first, buy my book and second watch these two great videos! The first is the best history of the Canal from the inception to the US turnover of the Canal to Panama. And the second is all about the Panama Canal Expansion program that was completed last summer, and what it means for the future of not just the Panama Canal but for worldwide shipping and the international economy. You’ll get to see behind the scenes of the construction and actually see inside the giant tunnels that feed water into the new locks.

These are the videos the cruise lines should show onboard. They are by far they far the best comprehensive videos about the Panama Canal.

PANAMA CANAL: PRIZED POSSESSION

PANAMA CANAL: POST-PANAMAX

This is information you won’t get on most gigantic cruise ships, but it will make your trip through the Canal so much more enjoyable!