January 8 & 9, 2020
One of the things we love about Crystal Cruises is the quality and variety of lectures and classes that are offered. There are classes in technology, knitting, bridge, art, golf, yoga, dance and much more. Lectures address local culture and history, global and local politics, and more.
Entertainment is also varied, including song and dance, magic, comedy, daily movie offerings (with popcorn), piano bars, and a casino. People have asked me how we avoid becoming bored on “sea days.” My response is that, with the offerings on board, any boredom would be my own fault.
Three different lectures were offered today, and we opted to attend two. Unfortunately, the afternoon lecture interfered with nap time!
A Special Interest Lecturer, Richard D. Morgan retired as the General Services Director of the Panama Canal Commission. He has worked and lived at the Panama Canal for 26 years, and clearly enjoys talking about the history of the canal. The Panama Canal Commission was an independent agency of the US Federal Government. As such, it was tasked with the responsibility of breaking even, costing the American taxpayer nothing.
Before the canal was built, the best way to cross the Isthmus of Panama was by rail. The Panama Canal Railway was built in the 1850s in response to the great numbers of prospectors heading to California gold rush of 1849. It was moved and upgraded in the early 1900s to facilitate the building of the Panama Canal. Mr Morgan will be doing a series of four lectures on this cruise.
We learned a bit more about Brexit this morning as well. Roberto D’Alimonte, a professor of politics at Luiss University in Rome, gave us some background about Great Britain’s attitude towards the EU. According to D’Alimonte, Britain’s approach to Europe has been to be “with them, but not of them.” As far back as the 1950s, Winston Churchill made this clear when he said “We are not members of the European Defence Community, nor do we intend to be merged in a Federal European system….We have our own Commonwealth and Empire.” Hearing this, I was surprised that Britain ever did agree to join the European Union. Indeed, it was several years before they joined, and they had to make several concessions at the time, concessions they came to regret.
On our first morning, we cruised by Cuba. It was barely visible in the distance. I was reminded of a time, some 20 years ago, when I was on a flight that was going through Cuban air space. We were told to close the shades on our windows, and to not take any photos as we flew over. I couldn’t help but wonder who would see those cameras from so many thousands of feet below.
Tonight is our first formal night, so we’ll get dressed up and dolled up for the big night. After dinner, we enjoyed a comedy show with stand up comic John Joseph, who has appeared on several TV shows, in movie, on Sirius XM, and has gone on tour with the likes of Rodney Dangerfield, Huey Lewis and the News and others.
Our first lecture this morning was about Cartagena, Colombia which we’ll be visiting tomorrow. Ian Maclachlan, Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada talked about some of the history, both colonial and recent. Colombia has gone from being a “failed state” to one that is much more stable, both politically and financially.
Another of today’s lecturers is Scott Kelly, retired astronaut whose identical twin, Mark Kelly, is also a retired astronaut. Scott spent a year in space, one of the longest sojourns of any astronaut. He and his brother were subjects of a three year NASA Twin Study, comparing the effects of space on long time travel. Kelly was a very entertaining speaker, one we could have listened to for much longer. He spoke to the value of aiming high, and approaching it with small steps.
After dinner, we attended to a Billy Joel tribute, called “My Life,” by Welsh musician James Fox. We’ve had the pleasure of hearing him on a cruise a few years ago, when his show was called “Piano Man.”