Port Excursion: Resident Sloth

In Panama: Sloth on board. © Patricia Kay

Today’s guest post comes to us from Patricia Kay, a Northwest author who has written two works of fiction that take place on cruise ships. Gentleman Companion One and Gentleman Companion Two are available as eBooks or paperbacks through www.amazon.com. For more information about Patricia see her website, www.patriciagkay.com

“Wildlife refuge within lake” was the description of the port excursion for Gatan Lake on the Panama Canal cruise. For $89, the small passenger boats traveled through densely forested islands to visualize the wildlife of the region.

Unfortunately, except for a tree of screeching monkeys, the only wildlife creature was a lone sloth that stretched out his leg while he sat on a shoreline tree staring at our camera- covered faces.

After the boat backed away from the shoreline, the boat narrator’s excited voice acknowledged the bobbing sloth head behind the boat. Reaching its willowy-clawed arms toward a broom handle, the sloth was lifted slowly onto back of the boat. It grasped the metal ladder while hiding its face from the sounds of admiring excursion guests.

I remember the enormous size of the matted brown and green patched creature that had morphed from the serene tree branch sunbather to an impressive long, wide-bodied animal with a saucer sized Ewok face. I can still hear its soft high-pitched screams as its gripping claws hung onto the broomstick pushing it gently back towards its wildlife inhabitant.

The excursion’s description should have said, “Meet the lakes’ resident sloth.”

Booking a port excursion on a cruise ship often requires reviewing the description offered on the cruise line website, which includes cost, length of time and physical limitations. Take your time choosing each port excursion, and understand that depending on the countries you visit, you may find occasional disappointing experiences.

First time cruisers often are surprised that port excursions are not part of their cruise packages, and they may choose to avoid the added expense. However, my experience has been to take advantage of port excursions.

I will never forget seeing the Pyramids of Gaza, an experience now delayed for many travelers. In addition, on an Alaska whale-watching excursion, a pod of orca whales surrounded our tiny boat filling out nostrils with their aquatic exhales.

Consider the following when booking an excursion.

  • Find out if your transportation is a bus or a small van, which may cram in guests beyond seat capacity.
  • Look at the length of the excursion and travel time to and from your destination. How much time will you have at your destination?
  • Understand required walking or stair climbing. At the Miraflores Locks, there was no mention of three flights of steps to the lookout point for the locks.
  • Know that a snack is usually bottle water, a piece of fruit or a cookie. Bring or purchase food if your excursion extends over mealtime.
  • Be aware of tour guides departure times to return to your transportation. Do not delay a tour by being late.
  • Remember to tip your tour guide and driver. Their services are not part of the cost of the excursion.
  • Communicate with the cruise line on-board staff about any concerns you may have had with the excursion.

Port excursions can offer life- changing memories if you spend the time to ask the right questions or a singular up-close-and-personal encounter with something as amusing as a single sloth.

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