Day Thirteen: It’s not the Panama Canal [July 16th, 2018]

I was woken up at around six am today by our captain announcing that we were entering the Kiel Canal. Sure, it’s cool that we were entering the Kiel Canal, but some people like to sleep really late, and hearing the captains voice blare through room speakers at loud intervals at ungodly early hours [I wake up at 5:00 during the year, I deserve to sleep late during my summers] whenever we passed a bridge or some sort of other so-called interesting site amongst the Kiel Canal, what no what I call an idea morning, at all. At around eight am or so, I just gave up trying to sleep since every time I would doze up, the captain would make another announcement.

Anyhow the Kiel Canal is a technical marvel of the late 19th century that was designed to link the Baltic and North Seas. The canal is a bit longer than 60 miles and it extends from the port city of Kiel, which is on the the Baltic, to the sea locks at Brunsbuttel, which is near the mouth of the Elbe River. It opened about a century ago, and since then five million ships have passed through it, which apparently saves them a long detour of 400 nautical miles. Approximately 45000 ships per year sail the Kiel Canal, which averages to about 120 ships per day sailing up and down the canal.

The Kiel Canal is located in Germany. Here are some basic facts about Germany. Germany is about 137,838 square miles, which is about four-fifths the size of California. The population of Germany is approximately 82,670,000 people. The language that’s spoken in Germany is German, and the capital of Germany is Berlin. The currency is the Euro.

The Kiel Canal was originally called the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal, and it opened in 1895. It was opened by Wilhelm II of Germany as a way to show off his power and prestige of his newly united country. The canal’s original purpose was to stimulate commerce, but it also had a military benefit. German warships could safely and quickly be moved between the Baltic Sea, facing Russia, and the North Sea, where they could oppose Britain or France. However, this didn’t exactly work out when the Royal Navy launched the Dreadnought in 1906, which was the first of the super-sized battleships of the 20th Century. The canal was too narrow to handle ships of that size. The Germans then decided to build larger battleships themselves, and canal was widened and deepened only a few years after its original construction.

As you sail the waterway, you sail under 10 different bridges, however, I was attempting to sleep in the morning, therefore I slept through the first half of these bridges, so I maybe only saw 5 or 6 of them. All along the banks of the canal, there were tons of people watching the ships sail by. Some of them were even waving. At the locks at Brunsbuttel, there was even a viewing room, where people could walk up and watch as the locks did their lock thing [I think they added water]. It was a very pretty sail. There were lots of trees [something of which we lack in Texas], farmlands, some cute little towns, and of course the bridges.

After the rude awakening from the captain, we decided to go to suite breakfast. We haven’t been to suite breakfast the entire cruise just because it’s not really our thing. I prefer to sleep really late, as late as I possibly can, and my mom prefers lunch to breakfast, so normally maybe I’ll order hot chocolate so room service can wake me up when I need to be woken up, and we’ll just go to the buffet and grab something quick there around noon. But yesterday Marius asked us to go to suite breakfast since apparently they were asking about us since we hadn’t been to it all cruise, and it seemed like a good day to do it [apparently they want suite passengers to go to suite breakfast just so they can justify having such at thing]. Suite breakfast wasn’t really anything special? It was the same food that you can order from room service or get in the buffet, it was just served on fancier dishes so it looks pretty, and you can get a free mimosa every morning [not that I like mimosas]. I had a cheddar and spinach omelet with some potatoes, a tiny lemon danish, and some hot chocolate and mom had a bagel with cream cheese and lox.

After breakfast, we went back to our room and basically did nothing. We watched the Kiel Canal scenery from the windows, and occasionally I would run out to the balcony and take a picture or two [such as when a bridge appears]. Once I even tripped on one of the chairs on the balcony in the process of taking such a picture. When I wasn’t injuring myself [I swear my left little toe will never be the same after this cruise], I was either playing Fire Emblem Awakening or reading on my kindle [and I’m almost out of books I haven’t read… I’m going to have to search amazon and find a new book or two for my ungodly long flight back to Texas. I think I have on unread book that I’m saving for the flight, but it won’t take me very long to read].

Around twelve-thirty or so, I ran up the the buffet to get a plate full of deserts for our lunch party with Mike and Tom. The buffet was really crowded. I don’t think there was an empty seat anywhere. One, it was pub lunch, which apparently is one of the more popular buffet themes, Two, people wanted to watch as we sailed through the Kiel Canal. It was like a sea day that wasn’t a sea day, in a way, it’s what I imagine the Panama Canal would be like but this was a much less grander scale. I brought the deserts back down the room, and Mike and Tom came over shortly after.

We ordered room service for lunch. I had a chef salad, where I basically just ate all the protein and the tomatoes and didn’t touch the lettuce. Mom had a tuna melt. Mike and Tom both had club sandwiches. Tom drank beer, Mike drank ginger ale, mom drank apple juice, and I drank cranberry juice. I think I’m starting to like cranberry juice more than any other juice [though cranberry pineapple is still my favorite]. It was a nice afternoon. The adults [which doesn’t include me] talked and chatted, I would chime in when I had something to say, which wasn’t very often. I mostly ate and took pictures of random scenery. It was sort of cool when we went into the lock, I’ve never sailed through the Panama Canal [bucket list cruise], or seen a lock before, so the whole process was pretty cool to watch. The canal even had like traffic lights throughout it. They’d either flash red or green. After awhile, once we were done on the canal, I went back inside, and read some more, and the adults talked some more, then eventually everyone went back to their own rooms and took naps. I like Mike and Tom, they’ve been fun dinner companions throughout the cruise. They’re just really nice guys.

I watched Wonder about a thousand times today [okay maybe five, but still]. The movie wasn’t bad, but I liked the book better. That seems to be a thing with me always. I tend to almost always like the books better, the exception being Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit since I cannot get through those books no matter how hard I try [I read the first two LOTR books] and the movies are awesome. Then I watched Moana. My one complaint about movies on the princess ships, and I don’t know if it’s just Pacific Princess or all princess ships, since when I was on Grand Princess with Justin to Alaska, last year, we mostly played switch on the TV… But the same few movies are just repeated all day. I wish there more of a variety like it was sort of like On Demand TV, Netflix, or Hulu or something, just more options for entertainment in your cabin.

While I watched Wonder and/or Moana, I read or played Fire Emblem Awakening, I lead a very boring existence when I’m on a cruise. But like I’ve said before, that’s just me. I don’t really like to party or dance or anything [though drunken karaoke is one of my favorite things to watch]. There are activities to do on the ships outside of your cabin, I just choose not to do them. On the Pacific Princess especially I don’t really ever see anything interesting to do,  but this cruise mainly attracts a much older crowd [as in I am the youngest on the ship, minus a few random teenagers and children], so the activities are more directed at that age group, and don’t really interest me. It doesn’t really bother me though because like I said, I prefer to read and play video-games to relax, and I actually prefer an older crowd [though I’ve met some really rude people on this cruise, but you meet rude drunken assholes on other ships] because to me that’s a more relaxing vibe.

I showered before dinner, and then it was off to dinner… My second to last dinner before the cruise ends. I’ll miss Noel and Gerhard, and eating things other than ramen noodles and protein packs. Dinner tonight was a goat cheese souffle for an appetizer, which was delicious, but then again, I love all things cheesy. My actual meal was gnocchi in tomato sauce. For desert I had chocolate peanut butter ice cream with whipped cream. Noel kept on telling me that he wasn’t sure I could eat peanut butter ice cream because of my allergy, and he wanted to check with the chef. I kept on ensuring him that I’ve been eating peanut butter my entire life, and peanuts are not nuts despite the fact that they have “nut” in their name. Peanuts are legumes [edible seeds that are in pods, they’re in the same family as sunflower and sesame seeds]. Gerhard also told Noel that they weren’t nuts, which I appreciate. This has been a struggle my my entire life convincing people that I can still eat peanut butter cups [which are my favorite candy] even though I’m allergic to nuts. Regardless though, I do appreciate how thorough they are when it comes to food allergies and even food issues like people who are kosher, lactose-intolerant, or need to eat gluten-free food.

Tomorrow is our last dinner with Noel, Marius, and Gerhard as our wait-staff. On the plus side, the last day of a cruise always means Baked Alaska, which is the best desert ever [though I don’t really think the junior waitstaff likes the fact that they have to participate in a Baked Alaska parade]. It’s also our last night eating with Tom and Mike, as well as our random Scottish table-mates [whose names I still don’t know]. It’s bittersweet. It’s good I’ll be going home, where there’s far less delicious food that I have access to than on a cruise [not that I really think I eat badly on a cruise, after being on a few cruises, you sort of know how to manage what you eat, I’m not perfect, but I’m also not one of those people who eats every single desert possible or goes to every single buffet or food event just because they can], but at the same time, I always feel that your tablemates, as well as your wait-staff sort of become part of a family for the time you’re on the cruise, and it’s always sad when you have to say goodbye to your family, especially since you may not ever see them again [or you may on a different ship, several cruises later, mom said she’s had Marius as a head-waiter for four different cruises on different ships].

Tomorrow we arrive in Amsterdam, which I’m excited about, it’s our last port, and I’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam, though I am sad it is our last port and the day after tomorrow, I’ll be leaving the ship at 7:30 am [I haven’t even started re-packing yet, I am very much a last minute type person, and to be honest my bigger concern is always making sure my electronics are all charged], and taking an extremely long flight back to Texas, and hopefully not getting lost in Heathrow Airport. We’ll be taking a private tour through Amsterdam, and I’m hoping to see windmills and tulips. Many many years ago, as I was graduating from college, I almost went to Holland over the summer for to take graduate level education courses with my university, where the special education department had a summer abroad program there. I ended up choosing going to Birthright over Holland since it was the last possible year I could do Birthright, as I was aging out of it, and then life happened so I never ever had a chance to go to Holland again or starting graduate school. But anyhow, Holland, Amsterdam, in particular has always been on my bucket list, so I”m really excited to go there. One of my friends has already told me where a Starbucks is and it’s about a 15 minute walk from the terminal, so I’m hoping I can add another mug to my collection since this one seems to be reasonably easy access like the one in Helsinki was, so there is a decent possibility of this happening… [I mean I managed to get through the old town in Riga without getting completely lost, so I can try to make this happen].

Tomorrow will be my last official “trip report” post about the cruise. I mean I’ll write about the flight back to Texas, and how much it sucks that we still don’t have air conditioning [the technician is coming on Thursday, I go back on Wednesday], but it won’t be an official trip post written on the actual ship like all these have been, and I’ll have at least 700-800 pictures to resize when I get home.

I’ll miss you Pacific Princess.

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