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Day Eight, Ten and Eleven at Sea and Tips for Traveling to F


Panama Cruise January 2011 - Last Trans-canal trip planned for the Disney Wonder at this time.
Day Eight, Ten and Eleven at Sea and Tips for Traveling to Foreign Ports Problem Free

The three sea days that followed the Panama Canal crossing and a stop at Puntarenas, Costa Rica were peaceful and uneventful. A slight cloud cover on day eight kept the sun at bay, but after the Costa Rican stop, we faced blue skies that stretched all the way to the horizon with no rest from the sun.

Typically, by this time of a cruise, the only people that are still at the upper deck pools are those that have been wise, using sunscreen with very high SPF ratings liberally. There are always those who start the cruise with the belief that they, "don't burn that easily". At latitudes of ten degrees or less, the sun is far more brutal than any continental US shores provide. Having lived in the southern tip of Texas for ten years, we find this sun far more difficult to manage without plenty of protection. It still pains me to see fairer skin burned to blisters and still sleeping on the deck chairs.

After the heat of the Panama Canal and Puntarenas, Costa Rica, tree days at sea give everyone plenty of time to recuperate for the last three ports that are lined up, one right after the other before our final approach into the docks at Los Angeles, California.

Also, around this time on longer cruises comes a time I like to call the "Mid Cruise Crisis". It is not unique to children, adults or even guests. In our experience in long cruises, people become a little more temperamental with everything; kids, other guests and even cruise cast members. We have even experienced wait staff that never make a mistake that get orders completely wrong. It happens to the best of them. Once the mid-point of the voyage arrives, take advantage of the down time on sea days to sleep in, rest up and prepare for the final push through the last ports of call and the long trip home. I will be a bit jealous of those that live only a few miles from the port in Los Angeles.

Traveling to Foreign Ports Problem Free

The first thing I must say is that I am not some sort of pro on travel safety. I have been robbed while traveling in my sleep and have thwarted a few other thefts over the years. I would like to share a few things that I have learned over the years that have helped me a lot.

When traveling on a cruise ship to a port, the first thing I see people do that is a mistake is wear paraphernalia from the ship that makes them stand out as a tourist. When a thief or con artist looks for people, they will first look for the people with the Mickey ears on their head, stickers from the excursion they just got off or flashy clothing.

If you follow along much here, you know I am no exception on the obvious signs. One of the things I always do on the Disney cruises is have a hair cut with a large Mickey Mouse profile on the back of my head... not coloring but a hair cut! When going in to ports I always wear hats that cover the hair. I can get on and off the ship and no one ever knows about my haircut.

Don't wear anything obvious. I like long gray cargo type pants and timberland shoes. Also, solid colored shirts in muted tones help to blend in with the locals.

Now some ports are safer than others. St Thomas, for example, is a very comfortable port and is safe from common crime. A bit of knowledge can go a long way. Puntarenas has a challenge with pick pockets along with many other ports. Always do your research if you do not know about a port. Do not rely on your personal experiences from years past, either. Situations change, governments change and the people change. We always have our eyes loosely on the news and make mental and written notes about places we visit. Currently, troubles arise in Tunisia. We have no plans to go there right now, but we may in the future. That bit of information will stay with us and influence any decisions regarding Tunisia for years to come.

Be aware of your surroundings. While walking through markets and streets of an unknown port, look behind you occasionally. You do not even need to be covert about it. Turn your head, get a good look at people behind you and do so from time to time. Here are  number of scenarios that are not uncommon:
  • While walking down a city block, while approaching an ally or private gate, someone can come from behind and push you into a more private place for a robbery.
  • They may also slice open the bottom of your back pack or purse and catch what comes out.
  • Slicing straps on purses, side bags and backpacks is not uncommon either.
  • In Naples, a friend told of a particularly bold crook that grabbed a ladies bag on the train platform and dragged he along with it until she finally let go.
  • Snatch and grabs from motorcycles and mopeds are common, too. Be aware of motorcycle and moped engines accelerating toward you, especially from behind. If you are walking with friends, always carry a side bag between you.
  • The one time I was robbed in my sleep, everyone in our group was exhausted and nearly all of us removed our security wallet located under our shirts or jackets. That was a big mistake. All our cash was taken except one girl who had a small amount of money stashed in a pocket.
    Exchanging money on the street is a set up for a scam. The con artist will count out your cash for the exchange, then when you look down to count your cash to hand over, they will turn over the wallet in their hand and only give you a single bill wrapped around a lot of newspaper.
  • People in groups I have been a part of were surrounded by a dozen children who wave papers in their face and pat them while raising a raucous noise. While they are distracting you, backing you into a corner they empty pockets, purses and backpacks in a flash and then are gone.

These are just some of the things I have heard or seen. Send me a story of a different occurrence and I will gladly add it to the list.

Carefully select the type of bags and wallets you plan to carry while traveling. Years ago we were given a back pack that has a cooler in the bottom. This is a great place to put cold drinks, but it also serves as an extra layer of protection from someone slicing open the bottom of the backpack.

A comfortable security wallet is ideal for the bulk of your cash, tickets, passports and credit cards. Security wallets worn around the neck and on the outside of your shirt are NOT security wallets. A security wallet is worn under your outer shirt with a strap that goes over the neck and one arm. It is stowed under an arm, which ever side is comfortable, much like a gun sling worn under a detectives jacket.

Never pull a security wallet out in public. Keep a small amount of cash in an outer pocket for small purchases. Larger purchases are typically made in more secure locations anyway. Do not flash your wallet or it's strap in public for any reason.

More recently, when I am not carrying so much, I have taken to wearing a belt pack (also called a fanny pack). Like a back pack or side bag, do not over stuff it, making it look like a juicy target. Despite the name "fanny pack" DO NOT wear it behind your. I like wearing it on the side and I keep a hand on it at all times.

When selecting a bag, do not use a bag with a thin flimsy strap or string holding it on. Small straps are easily broken or cut and without your knowledge can be slipped right through your fingers.

Finally, do not select back packs and side bags that hang open. There are only two acceptable types of closures in my opinion:
  1. Medium to heavy zipper. The best because they can be closed and not seen in at all. Light zippers can be pulled open without actually unzipping the closure. Also, I like zippers with loops on the end that will accommodate a locking metal loop of some kind that will hold the zipper sealed. Yeah, it may be harder for you to get in to, but it is harder for a pick pocket to get in to also.
  2. Draw string flap combination. This is a draw string that closes the top of the bag then a flap folds over the draw string and locks down. And use the lock! The best I have seen are draws and flaps that hook in to some sort of metal locking loop like that used on a zipper.

On a small side note, when checking baggage on the airplane, do not use locks. If your bag requires a legal search, they will either break the lock or cut open the back. In either case it would be a lose for you. Instead, go to your local walmart or electric supply house and purchase cable ties. They are plastic and discourage casual theft but they also allow for legal searches without damaging any of your belongings.

Also, when zipping up your bags, always ensure the zipper draws are centered on a handle. The tendency is to zip the zippers all in one direction around to the back of the back. If your bag is backwards when the crew are unloading, if there is no handle, they will naturally grab the zipper draw. Frequently that results in the inevitable tearing or opening of your luggage.

Clothing, knowledge, awareness and the type of bag you carry can play a large part in your safety in any city around the world. When traveling in any cities you are not familiar with, just be careful!

2011 Disney Wonder Panama Canal Cruise Index


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