Missed Opportunity for Clubbing in Panama

Day 7, Grand World Voyage

Monday, Jan. 9, 2023; Fuerte Amador, Panama.

It’s not easy planning for 61 ports, especially when I’m not familiar with most of them. The planning can be hit or miss – and sometimes I miss. Fuerte Amador, by Panama City, may have been one of those occasions.

As we were scheduled to moor here at 8 p.m. yesterday after the day transiting the Panama Canal, several members of our online planning group booked an evening tour of Panama City. When I heard that it would involve clubbing until the wee hours, I decided it probably wasn’t for me. And I did enjoy my early evening on board. But after hearing about the tour, I wish I had been more adventurous.

Pete, the blogger at The Inside Cabin, wrote about the evening in one of his latest posts. They had a great dinner and then visited a couple of rooftop bars and lounges. It wasn’t quite the clubbing I had imagined (or that of my younger days). They saw a side of a port that we rarely get to see, as the ship tends to leave around sunset to travel overnight to the next stop.

Rich, who blogs at Postcards from the Transition, and his wife Suzy settled for the shuttle bus to Perico, a restaurant district close to the pier. The many families out enjoying the evening provided the entertainment. Rich also writes a great description of why today is a Panamanian holiday called Martyrs’ Day. He and Suzi spent years working for non-governmental agencies around the world, and he brings a fresh perspective to his blogs.

Until now cruise ships anchored at this port and passengers tendered to shore, but a new cruise terminal is under construction and the pier is open. The Volendam moored next to us, but the construction zone prevented walking off the ship to the nearby restaurants and shops.

We had a choice of two shuttles – one a five-minute ride to Perico and other a 20-minute ride to the Multiplaza, an upscale shopping center in the middle of Panama City. Elaine and Eloise opted for shopping (and a haircut for Elaine).

I joined my friend Connie, who is sailing on the Volendam, at Perico. The main activity was the crowd of tour operators and taxi drivers who met our shuttle looking for fares. Although persistent, they graciously took “no, gracias” as our final answer and moved on to better possibilities.

Not much was open in the late morning, especially because it was a national holiday, but that worked for us. We settled for a comfortable table at a closed sidewalk café and brought out our sketchbooks. As we sketched the deserted rides at a children’s carnival midway, we chatted away.

It was a fun couple of hours catching up on our lives and travel since we last saw each other in Santa Fe, N.M., last summer.

When I returned to the port, I considered taking the other shuttle to the mall. I think I was suffering from FOMO – the fear of missing out – on some shopping opportunity. But there was nothing I needed to buy, and I knew there likely would be long lines for the return shuttle. So I chose the comfort of the air-conditioned ship. Did I mention Panama is not only hot, but very humid?

In fact, before we left this afternoon a tropical thunderstorm blew in, and lightning struck a radio antenna on the ship. No worries, the captain said, as we have redundancy. But the loud clap of thunder sure startled everyone, and the result was a broken window tile above the Lido Bar.

My email this afternoon brought a photo of my sisters and me during our canal transit yesterday – taken by our friend Susan (Voyage of the Vikings 2019) who is on the Volendam. We were on our balconies, and it shows how the door opens between the two. I replied with a photo of her family on the Volendam deck.

After today’s port, we will be at sea for eight days as we journey toward Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas. The captain warned us to expect limited Internet service as we pass through a part of the Pacific Ocean with poor satellite coverage. I’m sure I will find lots of activities to fill my time offline.