Balboa, founded by the United States during the construction of the Panama Canal, was named after Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the first European to explore the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean. The city is located at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, and thrives on the business from Balboa Harbor, it's commercial port. In 1979 the Canal Zone, previously a U.S. territory, was ceded to Panama under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaties. The Panama Canal's Administration Building, former seat of the Canal Zone Government and Panama Canal Company, is located in Balboa Heights. Sightseeing high points include the Canal Administration Building and the fairly well-preserved architecture of the Canal Zone era, the Goethals Memorial, El Prado Boulevard, and the handicrafts markets.
Panama Canal, Panama
The Panama Canal is a major ship canal that traverses the Isthmus of Panama in Central America, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The construction of the canal was one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken. It has had an enormous impact on shipping, as ships no longer have to travel the long and treacherous route via the Drake Passage and Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America. A ship sailing from New York to San Francisco via the canal travels 6,000 miles, well under half the distance of the previous 14,000 mile route around Cape Horn.
San Blas Islands, Panama
Situated in the Caribbean Sea a few miles off the north coast of Panama, the San Blas de Cuna Islands are the home of the Cuna, a traditional society of Native Americans. Most of these tropical islands are very small. Many are surrounded by coral reefs. The islands are part of Panama, but are primarily administered by the Cuna tribe.
Molas are one of the primary expressions of the visual arts in Cuna society. All genuine molas were created by a Cuna woman as the focal point for her own dress. The designs are always original and are an important way for a woman to express herself and demonstrate her talent and industry in this politically active and traditionally matriarchal society.
Cartagena, formally known as Cartagena of the Indies, is a large city seaport on the northern coast of Colombia. Founded in 1533 by Don Pedro de Heredia, and named after the port of Cartagena in Spain's Murcia region, it was a major center of early Spanish settlement in the Americas, and continues to be an economic hub as well as a popular tourist destination.
Hot, sultry, filled with the sounds of music and bright with color and tradition, Cartagena has an impressive heritage. Gold and silver left the port bound for Europe, pirates looted the city, and a walled fort grew to protect both shipping and the slave trade.
The walled old town of this fortified Spanish colonial port is a gem. It's packed with churches, monasteries, plazas, palaces and noble mansions with overhanging balconies and shady patios. It pays just to wander through the old town.
Oranjestad ("Orange City") is the capital and most important city of Aruba located on the southern coast near the western end of the island. The town was built around Fort Zoutman in 1796 and Oranjestad has been the capital of Aruba ever since. The fort is still one of the town's attractions, others being the tax-free harbor and the Willem III Tower, located near the fort. The city is named after the first King Willem van Oranje-Nassau (William of Orange-Nassau), the first heir to the Dutch House of Orange.
Small portions of the city are formed from a series of man-made expansions of land into the sea. Present-day Renaissance Marketplace as well as the adjacent Queen Wilhelmina Park, are within part of this expansion. Dutch colonial architecture is less visible than on neighboring island Curacao, but several modern recreations have emerged, including the outdoor shopping mall at Royal Plaza, and a few scattered buildings along Main Street and on the Main Square. Due to increased government interest in maintaining the island's cultural heritage, a number of old buildings and houses in the center of town have been transformed into colorfully restored landmarks, such as the lime-colored Civil Registry on Wilhelminastraat.
Willemstad, Curacao's capital is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its importance in the slave trade in the 18th and 19th century. Willemstad blossomed in this period, and Willemstad grew rapidly. Over 300 years later these buildings are still there, and in great condition.
Your first look at Curacao across the small channel from the ship is just like looking at a scene somewhere in Amsterdam or any city in the Netherlands. Pastel colored buildings (complete with the hoist towers so common in the Netherlands) line the waterfront and it is hard to believe that you are actually in the deep southern Caribbean almost to South America.
Willemstad is what sets Curacao apart from the rest of the Caribbean islands. Curacao might have many charms to it, but its biggest charm is its beautiful city.
White Bay, Jost Van Dyke (B.V.I.)
Sopers Hole, Tortola (B.V.I.)
Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda (B.V.I.)
Gustavia, St. Barts