Sunday, April 7, 2024 – Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

Captain’s Eclipse Report

Planned position of Discovery Princess offshore from Mazatlan on Eclipse Day
Planned position for Discovery Princess offshore from Mazatlan on Eclipse Day
  • Forecast 28% cloud cover
  • Eclipse announcement at 9AM tomorrow
  • Ship’s speed will be 11 kts, then drifting during the eclipse
  • Heading 35º to 55º
  • SW course intercepting track of totality
  • 9AM announcement tomorrow morning
  • Tune in to the Bridge Camera on the TV for eclipse announcements and narration
  • HAL Koningsdam & Zaandam will be in the area, and Emerald Princess will be 1 mile away from Discovery Princess

I go ashore around 11AM for a walk through the historical district, returning at 12:30PM after covering about 3.4 km. Walking in the morning is very pleasant, with a nice breeze and it’s only about 24ºC. I follow the “Blue Line” route from the cruise terminal to the Plazuela Machado and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. I pass by the Topolo restaurant where my travel buddy later shares that he had a superb 2-hour lunch with friends this afternoon.

There is an impressive sunset as we sail out of Mazatlan harbour headed for our position on the path of totality for tomorrow’s Total Solar Eclipse. I am favoured with a spectacular Green Flash, which I observe and photograph from my balcony!

My friend and I have dinner in the Juneau Dining Room this evening. The meal and service is fine but really not comparable to the Main Dining rooms on Holland America. On the way back to our rooms, I stop at Sabbatini’s Trattoria to ask the Maitre’d if there is any seating available, since the Princess app indicates nothing available. He cheerfully gives us a 7:30PM time for tomorrow evening. I’m glad I asked, since this restaurant comes highly recommended.

Eclipse viewing glasses and information is distributed to all passengers and crew today. I’m particularly glad to see the crew will have a chance to view the eclipse tomorrow.


Vancouver Departure

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

I have a coffee and a cereal bar in my hotel room before checking out and rolling my bag the few blocks down to Canada Place, stopping for a quick selfie before going inside. I am through the check-in at the cruise terminal shortly after my10:20AM boarding time, however it takes about an hour for the ship to start accepting passengers aboard. Since I roll my own bag aboard, I’m soon settled into my stateroom #5023.

I then head to the Grand Dutch Cafe for lunch: Beenam’s ham sandwich and a bowl of Dutch pea soup. The couple ordering ahead of me insist on loading up with two giant sized chocolate-covered cream puffs and two slices of Dutch apple pie each! The server and I have a chuckle about their greed. I take a cappuccino and a Perrier bottled water back to my stateroom.

Dutch apple pie, Chocolate vanilla cake, bran, chocolate and blueberry muffins, giant-sized chocolate covered cream puff. Dutch pea soup, Beenam’s ham sandwich. Grand Dutch Cafe aboard Koningsdam
Dutch apple pie, Chocolate vanilla cake, bran, chocolate and blueberry muffins, giant-sized chocolate covered cream puff. Dutch pea soup, Beenam’s ham sandwich. Grand Dutch Cafe aboard Koningsdam

It’s a lovely sunny day in Vancouver as the ship pulls away from the dock at about 4:45pm, which is a bit late due to a passenger having to be taken off the ship at the last minute for medical reasons. I never get tired of being aboard a ship at it sails under Lion’s Gate Bridge, passing Stanley Park and the North Shore heading out into the Strait of Georgia. It is dark by the time we pass my home city of Victoria, so rather than spend time on deck, I have my first Martini on this voyage and enjoy the jazz, blues and rock on the Music Walk venues this evening.

Harbour Air seaplane taxiing to the dock in Coal Harbour with pleasure craft and Chevron fuel dock, Brockton Point, Stanley Park, Lion's Gate bridge and the North Shore mountains

Victoria to Vancouver

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

I like to arrive in a cruise departure city the day before a cruise leaves, in order to not be rushed and to reduce the inevitable anxiety of being ready to board the ship at the appointed day and time. I have a leisurely breakfast at home and take care of some last minute packing before going to the airport in the late morning. I check my bag at the check-in desk, go through security and have lots of time left to spot aircraft from the domestic gates waiting area. I only spot the usual suspects today: Westjet, Air Canada and Flair, and of course Pacific Coastal, which is my airline today.

Air Canada Rouge, Westjet, Porter, Flair & Pacific Coastal spotted at Victoria airport
Air Canada Rouge, Westjet, Porter, Flair & Pacific Coastal spotted at Victoria airport

My Pacific Coastal Airlines, Flight 106 on a Beech 1900D leaves Victoria Airport at 1:40PM, arriving at Vancouver airport’s South Terminal at 2:15PM. Skies are clear as we cross Georgia Strait, giving me some good views of the Gulf Islands. As we approach Vancouver Airport from the east, it’s fascinating to fly low over the Fraser River delta farms and urban development in Surrey, Richmond and Delta. I even catch some glimpses of Mount Baker to the south of us through the orange-coloured haze in the sky this afternoon. I take the shuttle to the Main Terminal and board the Canada Line Skytrain, arriving at the City Centre Station a half hour later. I’m staying at the Metropolitan Hotel, which is a 5-minute walk away.

I use the MarineTraffic app on my iPhone to check on Koningsdam’s current position. As of 4:30PM, the ship is just entering Johnston Strait near Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island, heading south to dock in Vancouver tomorrow morning. After having a shower and catching up with my online social media, I go downstairs to the hotel’s Diva bar and restaurant for some dinner. I have Grilled salmon over a roasted beet salad with a glass of Granville Island Pale Ale.

After dinner, I go on a walkabout downtown at sunset, taking photos of the buildings with my Canon R5. The art deco Marine Building is always a good subject, especially since it is surrounded with modern glass towers which reflect its image. The Apple Store is across the street from my hotel, but I’m not tempted to shop, despite being an Apple fan!



April 29, 2023 – Saturday – Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

I don’t want to miss a thing as the ship approaches my home town, so I’m out on my verandah at 7:15am as we round Cape Flattery, sailing into Juan de Fuca Strait with Neah Bay, Washington visible through the fog bank. The snowfields on the Olympic Mountains to the south of us are impressive, and the Race Rocks lighthouse stands out from the marine mist as the Sun burns it away on the north side of the Strait.

Race Rocks lighthouse

Later, the pilot from Victoria arrives onboard as we sail past Sooke and Metchosin. Our ship docks at Ogden Point in Victoria about a half hour early at 11:30am. The Discovery Princess is already docked in the slip beside our ship, so that means about 5,000 passengers are going ashore today – 3,000 from the Discovery Princess and 2,000 from the Nieuw Amsterdam!

It is a bright sunny day, and it is warming up nicely, so I put on sunscreen before leaving the ship to be a tourist in my own town, at least in the James Bay neighbourhood. I walk slowly along Dallas Road to Fishermans Wharf, where I encounter hordes of cruise ship passengers. I guess the food and tour vendors on the wharf are happy to see them, but I’m surprised that the dock doesn’t sink under all that weight!

I walk further along the harbour, but there are so many people and traffic on Bellville, I decide to divert to Superior Street where it is quiet. I need a break, so I go to Discovery Coffee on Menzies Street and enjoy a traditional cappuccino away from the crowds and noise. The sunshine is great, making for a lovely day, showing off all the Spring flowers in bloom around the city.

My plan was to take the tour of the BC Legislature, however the building is closed to tours on the weekends and a protest on the front lawn is just winding up. Also, the Causeway and downtown are packed with tourists, so after taking a few photos of the Inner Harbour and the outside of the BC Legislature, I once again divert by wandering south on Government Street. I take photos of the old historic neighbourhood along the way and then turn right at Dallas Road, walking slowly from Holland Point along the waterfront to return to the ship by 5pm.

The above map is a 6km (2.5 mi) route, with a total walking time of 1 hour, 15 minutes if you don’t stop. It took me 2.5 hours with a 15 minute rest stop at the coffee shop, and a bit slower pace than normal to appreciate the sights and take a few photos. There are no hills and all the walking is on sidewalks.

Filet of Beef Wellington

I enjoy my last dinner aboard ship in the Main Dining Room this evening, having Smoked Salmon Rosettes with salmon caviar to start, Filet of Beef Wellington with mashed celery root, peas and carrots for my main course, and Baked Alaska for dessert..

Our ship departs at 10:50pm to slowly sail overnight to Vancouver, arriving early tomorrow morning at Canada Place.


San Diego

April 26, 2023 – Wednesday – San Diego, California, USA

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

I am up at 7AM and out on my balcony this morning as the ship enters the harbour. It is an overcast day to start, but the clouds clear off later. I go down to the Main Dining room for breakfast, since I’m in no rush to go ashore because I don’t have an excursion booked.

It is a frustrating morning once we dock in San Diego, since US Customs and Border Protection insist on clearing each and every passenger and crew in person this morning. So despite docking at 7:30AM, I’m not allowed off the ship until 10:30AM since I have a 10AM time slot to see the CBP officers. It appears passengers with shore excursions booked and those who are leaving the ship by rolling their own luggage ashore are first in line. Next are passengers debarking, and then those of us who are “in-transit”, followed by crew leaving the ship. There are nine CBP officers, but the lines of passengers extend most of the length of the ship.

USS Midway

Once that hassle is over, I disembark the ship and walk over to the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, an historic US Navy warship docked close by. It is an interesting way to spend about three hours by both exploring the inside of the ship, as well as the flight deck, where many historic aircraft are displayed. There are lots of helpful and friendly volunteers around to ensure people don’t get lost, and also to give information about the amazing systems and historic equipment they are seeing. I photograph every detail of this warship, so view my photo album for those who want all the details!

Our sail away out of the harbour is interesting as we pass the airport, marinas, US Navy and Coast Guard facilities, Sea lions, and the city itself. I have dinner this evening in the main dining room, but we are moved upstairs since it’s so busy. I go to Guitarist Nester Santurio‘s late performance in the Main Stage, but walk out before he finishes since I can’t stand his cornball antics. I end up in the Ocean Bar to have my usual martini, since I think I need an attitude adjuster.


Panama Canal 2023

April 16, 2023 – Sunday – Nieuw Amsterdam transiting the Panama Canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

This is the day most passengers are on this cruise for: transiting the Panama Canal. I’m up before sunrise as the ship waits offshore from Colon in Limon Bay to enter the canal at the Gatun Locks from the Caribbean Sea. Although we enter the locks on time at Gatun, by the time we emerge from the last lock at Miraflores on the Pacific side, we are an hour late. The Sun is set by the time we sail under the Bridge of the Americas and into Panama Bay, emerging into the Pacific Ocean.

Panama Canal Transit map

Although this is my fifth canal transit, I’m always fascinated by the process of lifting ships up to the level of Gatun Lake, and then lowering them back to sea level. This is the first time I’ve observed the new locks in operation: Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side, and Cocoli Locks on the Pacific side. Since our ship uses the old locks, we don’t get great views of the new lock system, however I can see the massive ships beside and above us as we go through the old locks. In addition to bigger container ships, the new locks also enable LNG and PNG tankers to now use the canal, which apparently is a big revenue stream for Panama.

Our cruise director Kimberly is on the bridge all day narrating as our ship transits the canal. She shares that the captain has confirmed that today’s toll for the Nieuw Amsterdam is US$444,000, or just over US$300 per passenger!

I watch the ship transit the canal from three main areas of the ship. My own stateroom’s verandah is on Deck 7 Forward, so it offers great views from the right side of the ship and happens to be on the shady side since it faces west. I also pop out to the Deck 7 Forward deck, which is very close to my stateroom and is open today, since it offers great views from the front of the ship. Finally, once in awhile I go up to Panorama Deck 10, where I can get views from both sides of the ship and be higher up.

While I take photos of the transit from various locations on the ship, I also setup my GoPro action camera on the rail of my balcony this morning to shoot a time lapse video, capturing all the interesting parts of the process of moving through the canal and locks. This 3-minute video captures the 12-hour process quite well!

It is Sunday, so there is a big crowd of Panamanians at the Miraflores Visitor Centre, who are waving at us as we move through the locks. On the other side, there is a big Alligator on the canal shoreline. Panama Bay and Panama City are beautiful in the darkness with the city lights shining.



April 15, 2023 – Saturday – Cartagena, Colombia

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

I am up by 6am to witness the beautiful sunrise as the ship enters Cartagena harbour. The ship docks in an industrial area called Manga, but it is not far from the city.

Sunrise over Manzanillo

I take the Land and Sail excursion, which tests my endurance since we start off by climbing to the top of the fortifications at Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. Thankfully, the bus driver has cold bottles of water waiting for us as we reboard. We are then dropped off at the old walled city, where our guide takes us to a couple of his “preferred” street vendors before we go to the Mister Emerald shop to cool off and use the washrooms. We are to meet back here in 35 minutes, so I immediately get out of that tourist trap and wander around the old city. I take photos of ornate doors, brass knockers, and beautiful old second story balconies that overhang the streets. Centro is a picturesque part of the city, but the heat and humidity are oppressive, and the street vendors are persistent.

Once we regroup, we walk a short distance past the Naval Museum to board a motorized catamaran which takes us on a tour of the Bahia de Cartagenas harbour area, where we see the modern side of the city. We are dropped off at a dock adjacent to our cruise ship, so it’s an easy walk from the end of our excursion. I’m exhausted, and so glad to board the air-conditioned ship, have some lunch, and then get freshened up!

I have a 6:30pm reservation for Nami Sushi this evening, but go to the Tamarind bar to have a pre-dinner Martini half an hour before being seated. Thankfully they are not hosting the martini hour today, so the service has returned to what I expect: a lovely quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of many of the other venues around the ship this afternoon.

Thai Basil Szechuan Shrimp

Once seated in Nami Sushi, I decide to try the Wasabi Cocktail – Momokawa Silver sake, lychee liqueur, sour mix, agave syrup, orange juice. It is sweet but has nice flavours. I have the Hamachi, Scallop & Salmon Ceviche to start, which is my fave, but not quite as good as I had on the Koningsdam last year. The Thai Basil Szechuan Shrimp with lobster rice is my main course – huge shrimp and perfect medium spiciness to the sauce. I don’t have room for dessert! The a-la-cart charge is US$24.78 instead of $38 at Tamarind. It’s pretty sparse in the restaurant this evening, probably because there is a Seafood Boil event happening in the Lido Market (which I’m avoiding, due to the expected crowds).

The captain made it clear with an earlier announcement that departing from Cartagena on time is important so we don’t miss the scheduled transit time for the Panama Canal tomorrow.


Arrival in Vancouver & home to Victoria

Oct 24, 2022 – Arrival in Vancouver, BC, Canada & flight home to Victoria

2022 Hawai’i Cruise

I’m awake as the ship passes English Bay and under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, sailing into Vancouver Harbour. The ship docks at Canada Place at 7:15AM – precisely as the captain predicted yesterday! I get dressed and go down to the Grand Dutch Cafe for my usual cappuccino, blueberry muffin and yogurt/fruit parfait. There is quite a line, so it takes about 20 minutes for Kaye to make my cappuccino, but I’m in no rush. After breakfast, I return to my stateroom and finish packing. By that time, the announcement is made that the ship is cleared and disembarkation is starting. 

Since I’m a 4-star Mariner, I can disembark anytime I wish up to 9:30AM. It feels pretty good to be able to bypass all the passengers waiting for their group numbers to be called as I have my keycard scanned for the last time, and roll my bags down the gangway and into the terminal. The CBSA agent welcomes me to Canada after I give them my declaration. They don’t ask to see my passport, so I walk out the terminal and turn left onto Cordova Street to walk the block in the rain to the Skytrain terminal to board the Canada Line to the airport. I mistakenly get onto the train to Brighouse-Richmond instead of YVR, but no worries since I get off at Bridgeport and board the following train to YVR three minutes later.

The South Terminal shuttle is waiting right outside the pedestrian bridge at the US departures, so I’m checked in at Pacific Coastal Airways in short order. Now I wait five hours for my 3PM flight departure to Victoria. I settle in to work on my travel photos, but have a cappuccino from the Galiano Cafe first, and then an hour or so later I have some delicious seafood soup for lunch.

Bombardier Global 6000 executive jet taxiing at YVR
Bombardier Global 6000 executive jet taxiing at YVR

I spend an hour or so this afternoon plane spotting from the platform outside, taking photos of each aircraft as they takeoff and climb out. A Bombardier Global 6000 executive jet taxis past the platform to the private terminal next to South Terminal. Perhaps there is a VIP aboard? My flight is delayed 20 minutes but otherwise the flight goes smoothly. The pilot must have had a takeoff time slot booked, since he really hustles down the taxiway to the button, not even stopping at the stop line before taking off! The flight to Victoria was a bit bumpy, since we were flying at 2,000′ below the clouds. We fly a straight in approach over Sidney to Victoria International Airport, and roll onto the taxiway 15 minutes after our takeoff from Vancouver. There is an Air North Boeing 737 aircraft on the apron in Victoria, reminding me of my flight to Whitehorse back in May.

My family is waiting for me in the baggage claim area. My checked bag is one of the first to appear on the belt, so we are out of there in quick order, driving home in the rush hour traffic.


Oahu North Shore

Oct 17, 2022 – East & North Shore, Oahu, Hawai’i, USA

2022 Hawai’i cruise

The Holland America Grand Circle Island excursion is listed for US$149.95, but I got $20 off from my Have-It-All package, and then another $20 off since the the tour operator is no longer including lunch in the tour. As it turns out, this excursion doesn’t much resemble the description given at all. First, we drive around the island in the opposite direction, and secondly, we miss many of the stops, so it ends up being mainly a day of driving with only limited opportunities to get off the bus to either shop or see the sights on our own.

Joe at Halona Blow Hole with Wawanalu Beach behind, south shore of Oahu
Joe at Halona Blow Hole with Wawanalu Beach behind, south shore of Oahu

We do not stop at Hanauma Bay Marine Preserve since it remains closed to visitors since COVID-19, so I have no opportunity to take photos, even from the top of the cliff. The lack of humans during the pandemic has allowed the ecosystem to recover, so only visitors with permits are allowed in now. We stop at the Halona Blow Hole so I have time for a selfie before we hit the road again. I appreciate the 20 minutes we have at the Byodo-In Temple, although it is full of visitors, so it’s very crowded.

We drive north along the beautiful east coast, passing by both the Polynesian Cultural Center (where we were originally to stop for lunch) and the Kualoa Ranch. We stop at a macademia nut farm to shop, but it is packed with people from other tourist buses. We are stuck in multiple construction zones along the way, which is certainly frustrating for all of us. We only drive by the famous north shore beaches: Makapu’u Point, Sandy Beach,  Sunset Point Beach, and others – no stops.

A surfer girl with her surfboard on the Hale‘iwa strip
A surfer girl with her surfboard on the Hale‘iwa strip

Our lunch stop is in the surfing town of Hale‘iwa on the North Shore, where we have 1.5 hours to eat, shop, or do what we wish. I have an exceedingly expensive cappuccino and then wander along the main street that is lined with surf shops, restaurants, and shave ice places. I find some very nice Men’s Holoholo shorts in the Kahala shop, and buy a pair despite the US$88 price! I forgot to pack shorts for this trip for some reason…

We visit the Dole Pineapple Pavilion, which I detest, but at least we have 20 minutes off the bus. We are running late, so we miss the Nuuanu Pali Lookout (which would have redeemed this excursion for me), and drive directly back to the ship on the freeway. Needless to say, I’m frustrated and tired after this ordeal. I should have stuck to my original plan for today: take a taxi to the Bishop Museum.

After showering and putting on fresh clothes, I have a vegetarian pizza and a beer for dinner on the Panorama deck. There is a beautiful sunset over Honolulu, and later the ship departs Honolulu harbour around 10PM, bound for Kaua’i.

Sunset over Honolulu harbour with the ship's stack and an aircraft climbing out
Sunset over Honolulu harbour with the ship’s stack and an aircraft climbing out


Oct 16, 2022 – Honolulu, Oahu, Hawai’i, USA

King Kamehameha statue in front of the Hawaii Supreme Court, Honolulu
King Kamehameha statue in front of the Hawaii Supreme Court, Honolulu

2022 Hawai’i cruise

The ship arrives in Honolulu harbour very early in the morning. When I peek out the drawn curtains of my stateroom around 6:30AM, we are docked. I’m off the ship by 9:30am, cross Ala Moana Blvd, and walk the few blocks to old Honolulu. I try to cover some new ground, but also end up at the usual sights: Hawaii State Capital, Iolani Palace (closed), the Mission Houses (closed), and there’s a Hawaiian ceremony happening in the gardens outside the Kawaiahao Church (see banner image above).

Joe on the Lido deck by the Sea View pool drinking a well-deserved Heineken beer
Joe on the Lido deck by the Sea View pool drinking a well-deserved Heineken beer

I’m back on board the ship in just under two hours, having covered 4.7 kms. After a quick clean up in my stateroom, I head up to the Lido Bar to have a beer in the shade and hydrate a bit, given the heat of the morning. I also have a swim in the Seaview Pool, so I’m feeling much better, especially after having a shower and some roast pork for lunch in the Lido. Treating the ship as a resort is a wonderful benefit when we are docked overnight!

I have an afternoon nap, and then go for an early light supper in the Grand Dutch Cafe: grilled ham and cheese sandwich with fries and a Newcastle Brown Ale. I go to the World Stage at 6:45pm to get a good seat, since there is only one performance at 8PM of Drums of Polynesia, a local troupe. After waiting all that time, it is obvious to me that after they perform the first two numbers this is a dreadful, unskilled rendition of what should have been a spectacular cultural event. I walk out, retreating to the quiet of the Crow’s Nest Lounge and have my usual Tanqueray 10 Gin martini, while working on my photos taken today on my walk.