This year's group photo
The 2014 Spirit of the West group photo!
click to enlarge

2014 Spirit of the West Cruise Diary and Photos

Here's our cruise diary for 2014 - enjoy!

Below is some information on where the 2014 Spirit of the West Cruise is going. We hope you enjoy the following diary as we head to the Panama Canal.

See the map below (or scroll down).
We will sail on the Island Princess - here's what she looks like.

Kathy in this year's tee-shirt
Kathy in this year's tee-shirt
click to enlarge

Island Princess Island Princess

Below you'll find our basic itinerary and a map of where we are traveling.
Go to the Itinerary below (or scroll down).

Diary, Spirit of the West Cruise, 2014

You can also see a diary on Billie and Hugh's web site at
The diary and photos on their web site will be different than the ones on this page.

The following photos will all enlarge if you click on them.

January 2014
At the time this page was up-dated we had 39 15 1 more sleep ... check back here soon! Happy New Year!
These next photos, and the last couple, were taken by Mark's sister Jill.

I'm thinking this ride might be different than the one we'll get in Costa Rica ...

It's beautiful here but I'm thinking the sun and sand along with all the ...

pools and beaches might be a little nicer ... at least for a couple of weeks anyway!

Worming the horses before moving them into the winter feeding grounds.

Where are you two going? Not fair - you're leaving us?

January 28th
After some meetings in Kamloops Red and Helen dropped us off at the airport, took our car, and waved good bye ... we're now sitting in our Coast Hotel room in Vancouver waiting for a 3 am wake up call.

January 31st
We arrived yesterday, a day earlier than the group and had a good day with Jim and Karen

Our nice big room the first night at the Harbor Beach Inn in Fort Lauderdale

Getting on the Water Taxi to head up the river and see the houses rich people own

Kathy's Reba shirt got us free Internet at the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale

We got a little drowned on a mid-day walk but had a nice lunch here on the river

Kathy sitting at the fountain in the beautiful lobby of the Embassy Suites (our 2nd night)

January 31st
A good part of the day was spent on the Water Taxi ... a nice relaxing day with a very good guide (taxi driver) telling us all about who lived where and how much their house and/or boat was worth.

The 1st house on the river built in 1901, the Stranahan House

An empty lot for sale - a nice place to build and they only want $7 million

Kathy and Karen on the water taxi working on their hair doos between rain showers

Stephen Spielberg's little boat - 280 feet for $200 million

A surprize in our room - a ship credit from Jill and Robert - thanks!!

February 1st
Today was a pool day (in between homework sessions) and we made the best of it. Billie got some great photos of us in and around the pool.

A little windy on our own deck but still really warm and sunny

The water in the pool was really nice ... after the first plunge

We pretty much had the pool to ourselves so made the most of it

Kathy and Billie planning dinner ... or maybe happy hour

Like this shot of Kathy ... she's not enjoying the water ... much

February 1st & 2nd
We finished off the day with a great dinner and then a jam under the stars beside the inside pool.

Some nice passenger snapped this of us with Karen and Jim on formal night

Mark ran this mixing board for the Spirit of the West band

Kathy showing me the salt that was gathered on the deck rail

We're loving our deck but right now we're headed for the pool again

Mark setting up the slide show for the morning get together ... and ...

The announcement of the destination of the 2015 Spirit of the West Cruise. Join Billie and Hugh and you will visit New Zealand and Australia.
January 19th to February 5th, 2015 ... PLUS a three day Barrier Reef extension is available!

February 2nd & 3rd
Kathy finished off the day with Colleen at a wine tasting. On the 3rd we docked in Aruba where we had a great beach day with Billie and Hugh, Jim and Karen, Ray and Donna, and Colleen.

Out of all those people look who sits closest to the guy with the wine!

Kathy enjoying the warm salt water ... we float like a cork!

Note how crowded the beach is - we could hardly find a spot to lay.

Billie took this photo for us - that's Jim and Karen behind us.

Kathy trying to get on the beach fighting against the backwash

February 3rd
After a wonderful beach day we hit downtown for a short while and then back to the ship for dinner and another sing-along as we set sail for Columbia.

With three ships in port it was a little crowded in the shopping mall ...

Back to the Island Princess in time for a swim in the pool before supper

Note the water colour as we pull away from Aruba heading for South America

Now that's a sound board ... and the sing-along was great

Karen and Mark partying while Kathy was in the cabin doing homework

February 4th
A full day in Cartagena, Columbia. We did a tour that took in three or four tours and we had a super day. Lots of the Spirit of the West gang did the same tour as us and lots did other tours.

We hand mixed concrete with Harry's mixer but can't imagine an apartment building.

A statue of "the half man" - one arm, one leg, and one eye ...

One of the dug out canoes we were in for the Mangrove tour

Heading into the mangroves - not much wildlife but pretty neat anyway

The mangrove tunnel - quite the root system and canopy.

February 4th & 5th
More in Cartagena, Columbia. On the 5th we went through the Panama Canal.

These were perfect statues ... until they started moving.

One of the massive doors in old town Catagena ...

... that opened into massive courtyards and hotels.

We took in a movie about the Panama Canal ... lots of history.

These are the lock gates for the new canal that's being built.

February 5th
The amazing Panama Canal. We got in a swim and a whole pile of sun as well as taking in the canal itself.

One set of lock gates, the opening bridge, and the water exiting the locks.

A couple of freighters - one following and one going the other way.

Billie took this as we got in a swim in between locks.

This point of land (and others) will be removed to straighten the canal

A great view from our own deck as we head under the Centennial Bridge.

February 6th
An extra day at the canal gave us a full day to take tours around the canal ...

Kathy's sunrise on the morning of the 6th as we woke up at anchor

Panama City looking across Panama Bay from the bus

the old military hospital is now a hotel - and a nice one!

Skip and Jill - the two tour guides for the day in Panama

We left the hotel by boat for a wildlife tour in Gatun Lake

February 6th
An extra day at the canal gave us a full day to take tours around the canal ...

A howler monkey swings around in the trees for us

A sloth hanging around and trying to stay camourflaged

Ray and Mark trying to figure out how the train works

Hard to imagine how big the freighters are (observation deck top left)

This freighter was in and out of the middle lock as we watched

February 6th & 7th
Back to the ship and we're away heading for Costa Rica.

Tenders back at the ship and we're almost ready to leave Columbia

The Spirit of the West Band in the big beautiful Universal Theater

Now look what's heading our way ... Lime drop martinis!

Just happened to take Jill's recipe along and the bartender made them for us!

Formal night and an after dinner photo with Billie and Hugh

February 8th
Costa Rica and a day with the group at the Hacienda Nosavar Ranch.

Hard to see, but we watched these stingrays from the dock

We gave the guy $1 and took this photo of his sand sculptures

The bus driver stopped so we could get these white faced monkey photos

Cantelopes anyone ... field after field of cantelopes and melons

Crocodiles sunnin` themselves on the sand at the ranch

February 8th
Same day - Costa Rica - with the group at the Hacienda Nosavar Ranch.

Our guide & translater Mario Fernandez in blue and owner Rodrigo Vargas.

Mark poses with the owner, Rodrigo Vargas after the question period

Horses all hiding in the shade ... it was a hot day!!

Their fences are planted Tempate trees (these are about 7 years old)

They had Costa Rican dancers for us while we ate our lunch

February 8th
Same day - Costa Rica

They fed all 78 of us - it was great food and in a comfy setting.

The Island Princess sitting at the dock as we returned.

Kathy looking pretty small by the bow of the Island Princess

Harry we`re wondering how much blue bale string to make this rope

Kathy working away on her homework in our cabin

February 9th & 10th
The day ended with Jim and Karen taking all the 5 time or more Spirit of the West cruisers out to the Bayou Cafe for dinner ... 12 people. The next morning we woke up in Puerto Chiapas, Mexico.

Lorne & Kathy checking out the steaks at Jim & Karen's hosted dinner.

Mark's steak and lobster in the Bayou Cafe with past S of the W cruisers.

Puerto Chiapas - titanium in the top left & the market under the thatch roof

Kathy & Colleen asked this lady to show them how she did her work ...

Jill this one's for you ... Pupppppyyyyyyyyyyyy!

February 10th
In Puerto Chiapas, Mexico we did a tour that took us in to the town of Tuxtla Chico (the chocolate city), close to the Guatemalan border, where we visited a local market, had a chocolate making demonstration, and were entertained by music and dancers.

The market seemed endless - produce, fruit, meat, fish, souveniers, etc.

A chocolate making demo - Kathy thought she'd died and gone to heaven!

Breaking open the cacao shell - we tasted the slimy white cacao inside.

The white beans are then roasted till black (another taste)

Add a little sugar on the stone to be ground into the chocolate.

February 10th
At the chocolate making demonstration we were able to taste each step as well as some water that had had cacao beans fermenting in it for a couple of days (sweet), and some yummy hot chocolate!

Hand grinding to a mixed powder with stone on stone.

The chocolate after the grinding, ready to be formed into balls

Slapped into balls and halved to make pucks - finished, ready to sell.

We finished off with a taste of hot chocolate - yummy!

The Izapa Mesoamerican Ruins was our next stop.

February 10th
The Izapa Mesoamerican Ruins was the next place the bus went. It was pretty cool ... but very hot!! Probably one of our hottest days this trip.

The neighbour won't let anyone dig past the fence on the left.

Pretty amazing as this was all built around 300 years BC.

All on private property but the Government controls what's done.

These carved out stones were the irrigation pipes.

Another one for you Jill ... kitttttyyyyyyyyyy.

February 11th
Group photos in the AM followed by a galley tour.

Colleen & Kathy got accosted by Indians - for a photo & $1

Stuart trying to line up 81 people for the group photo.

Just a little stainless steel ... Robert's dream kitchen?

Can you imagine this many lobsters ... all for one meal.

A great way to end a day - a dip in the pool - oh so nice!.

February 12th & 13th
The 12th was a little more of a relaxing day with a swim and then formal night. The Captain of the ship stopped and talked to us in the hall after dinner and asked about our group. Although he's from Italy he owns a place in Alberta (where his wife lives now) so he fit right in with our group and we asked him to join us at our next sing-along, which he did.

Just happened to have Jill's Lime Drop martini recipe with us ...

when we met a few people at the Crooner's bar for happy hour.

Karen, Colleen, K & I, Lorne and Jim ... great drinks and company!

One day she's with the Maitre 'd and now she's with the Captain!

Mark chatting with Captain Fabio Amitrano when he showed up at the sing-along

February 13th
A great way to end a trip with the Captain of the ship thanking our group for being on board :-)

Richard Preston shared a poem about the Spirit of the West cruise

Mark at the soundboard thanking the Captain for speaking to the group

Tiffany was fun as she set six of us for some group photos. She was one of the best on this cruise.

Mark and Kathy, Jim and Karen, and Lorne and Colleen. Pretty good of all of us.

We weren't having much fun! Can't wait to do it again - hopefully next year!

All in all this was one of the best cruises we've been on, and this was number six for us! The folks in our group were terrific, the weather couldn't have been much better, the seas were calm day after day, the stops were awesome, and the food and the service were amazing! One thing that wasn't quite as good was that we didn't spend as much time with Billie and Huge this year as we tried to "share them" more :-). I think everyone else in the group appreciated this as Billie and Hugh are the reason they joined in on the Spirit of the West Cruise! :-).

Our Itinerary!         Top of Page

3 prior

  • January 28th we'll leave home for Kamloops and fly to Vancouver. Overnight at the Coast Vancouver Airport Hotel

2 prior

  • January 29th Leave Vancouver 6:30 am to Houston ... then to Fort Lauderdale - arrive 5:30 pm. Spend the night in the Harbour Beach Inn.

1 prior

  • January 30th - We get an extra day in Ft Lauderdale ... laze around the hotel and start holiday mode!
    Hope to get in a Tour! Switch to Embassy Suites Hotel with the rest of the gang!

Day 1

  • January 31st - Spend the morning in Ft Lauderdale and board the Island Princess early afternoon.
    We set sail at 4:00 pm, followed by the Spirit of the West Welcome Reception - details to follow.

Day 2

  • February 1st At Sea. 9:00pm to 10:00pm concert and sing-a-long under the stars by the Lotus Pool.

Day 3

  • February 2nd At Sea. 10:00am to 11:00am drop by and say Hi to the hosts, Billie and Hugh, in the Bayou Cafe.

Day 4

  • February 3rd Aruba. Arrive at 7:00 am and depart at 12:30 pm. 9:00pm to 10:00pm concert and sing-a-long by the Lotus Pool.

Day 5

  • February 4th Cartagena, Columbia. Arrive at 9:00 am and depart at 3:00 pm.

Day 6

  • February 5th Panama Canal, Panama. Arrive at 5:00 am and depart at 4:30 pm.

Day 7

  • February 6th Fuerte Amador / Panama City. Arrive at 8:00 am and depart at 6:00 pm.

Day 8

  • February 7th At Sea. 9:00pm to 10:00pm concert and sing-a-long under the stars by the Lotus Pool.

Day 9

  • February 8th Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Arrive at 7:00 am and depart at 7:00 pm.
    Group tour to Hacienda Nosavar Ranch, a Brahma Ranch including a BBQ lunch, a buggy ride, and a horseback ride!

Day 10

  • February 9th At Sea

Day 11

  • February 10th Puerto Chipas, Mexico. Arrive at 7:00 am and depart at 5:00 pm.

Day 12

  • February 11th At Sea. 9:00pm to 10:00pm concert and sing-along by the Lotus Pool.

Day 13

  • February 12th At Sea

Day 14

  • February 13th At Sea. 9:00pm to 10:00pm concert and sing-a-long by the Lotus Pool.

Day 15

  • February 14th At Sea. 2:00pm to 3:00pm Farewell Reception / aka "Please don't make me go home!" in the Wheelhouse Bar.

Day 16

  • February 15th Los Angeles. Arrive at 7:00 am ... fly to Vancouver then to Kamloops. Return to Meadow Springs Ranch and snow.

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Here's a route map showing all seven ports where we will be.
The numbers on the big map refer to the day in the itinerary. Click to enlarge.

10 days in the Caribbean!
Route Map for the 2014 Panama Canal Cruise
click to enlarge

2014 Spirit of the West Tee-shirt
The Spirit of the West T-shirt for 2014!
click to enlarge

Check out our other diary of the 2014 Spirit of the West Cruise on Hugh's web site
at: - it'll have all different photos and text in the diary.

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