Cruising’ South


Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Gem

Winter on Salt Spring is, usually – knock on wood – incredibly mild. That’s why we live here. No snow, just rain. And more rain. 

But you don’t need to shovel rain.

Sometimes, the pipes freeze. Sometimes we do get a dump of snow, even if the cherry blossoms are already out.

Having returned from our previous trip early in the Fall, we knew we didn’t want to spend the entire winter at home and dreamt of going some place warm and sunny by January.

IMG_3801We started researching possibilities. We didn’t want to fly half way around the globe this time. Same time zone would be nice. But Arizona doesn’t appeal too much to us. We don’t want to sit in one place and can still handle something active.

Maybe Costa Rica? Since we were there about 10 years ago, and really enjoyed it, prices seem to have skyrocketed. In searching for a place to rent in Costa Rica, or maybe Belize, we came across a trip that really appealed: a 3 week cruise through the Panama Canal.

As a good Dutchman, Kees has always been intrigued by that canal. And I like seeing new places better than places we’ve been before, no matter how much I loved it. This itinerary offered several new countries.

IMG_3791This is a so called ‘repositioning cruise’ – meaning that the ship is being switched from one location to another for the season. It would leave from Los Angeles and end up in New York.


Each night we find a different towel creation on our bed.

Along the way, it would stop and spend a full day in 3 different Mexican towns. In Guatemala and Nicaragua we have a chance to explore. Then we stop in Costa Rica, on the west coast where we haven’t been before. After going through the Panama Canal, the trip promises stops in Columbia, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Ending up in New York in mid February is not too exciting but everything before that sounds perfect. 

So we booked. And that’s why we have been making our way south to board the Norwegian Gem.

We took the train from Vancouver to Oregon. Then flew to California and, in a one way rental car, ended up right next to the World Cruise Center in the port of San Pedro. If I have time, while planning a trip, I always study an area on Google maps in satellite mode. That gave me a good idea of what to expect. I started by finding where exactly the cruise ship would dock. From there I located a hotel: the Sunrise Hotel was in the perfect location. I booked for the night before our departure. It was a bit run down, the pool looked awful, but the bed was clean and it had a lovely old fashioned American diner next door.


The find our way to our room we follow the fishes in the carpet: they all swim forward!

Then I found out that Enterprise had a car rental return right next to the hotel. Perfect. We booked a one way car to take from Palm Springs and drop off in San Pedro. We even staked out a route that would avoid the worst of L.A.’s freeway traffic.

All worked perfectly according to plan. We bought a US sim card in Oregon and used our phone as GPS to navigate through the orange County road system.

We dropped our luggage at the hotel, dropped off the car and explored the shore line in this busy world port. A wide promenade, complete with dancing fountains with music, led directly from the hotel to the cruise terminal.

We walked their, with our little roll-ons, the next morning. Norwegian Cruise Lines is very well organized. Check in was a breeze. It was time to walk on board and meet our home for the next 3 weeks.