Reason number two as to why I would recommend a professional tour guide. Title explains most, really. As we left the Panama Canal, my driver, Mario, asked if I liked to shop. I said no, which is a bit of a lie. I love shopping. Show me a gal who doesn’t. However, I don’t like to spend my vacation shopping for tacky souvenirs or bartering for ‘local goods’ made in China, so I typically skip it.
On to the next stop and I am relaxing in the back seat, enjoying the scenery, off to who knows where, Mario quickly turns to me and says ‘Mi amiga, you are with the cruise’. I say, ‘What, no I am not?!’. As he slows to a guard station, he loudly repeats ‘ANYONE ASKS, YOU’RE WITH THE CRUISE!’. Holy crap, I think, as I see the guard walking towards our car with a HUGE rifle, probably a semi. If I knew what one looked like, I could tell you. But I don’t. ‘K’, is about all I can manage to say.
Things progress in slow motion as I run my ‘story’ through my head. Oh, hi officer, I am just meeting my husband back at the ship. Took a quick trip into the city. Yes, I am on the Royal Caribbean ship. What, that’s not in port? Oh, that was my last cruise. I meant the Carnival. As I begin to wonder what Panamanian jails look like, the guard non-nonchalantly waves us through.
Mario then lets out a huge chuckle and says, ‘oh my, mi amiga, you should’ve seen your face! ahahahahaha!’. And then I say what all Americans would, ‘what the fuck!?!?!’. He tells me about a new shopping port that has been put in for cruise passengers and has duty-free shopping for those getting off the ship. I then repeat that I am not a big shopper, and he tells me I will love it. K.
We pull up to the port, which is basically one duty-free store, with security EVERYWHERE. Being quite nervous with no idea if I was even allowed, I walk outside to take pics and see another guard at my taxi waving car towards the exit. Though my gut was telling me to jump in the ocean and swim, Forest, swim, I chose to be brave and ran to the taxi where we were being told to ‘vamanos, vamanos!’.
So we vamanosed right out of there. I have no idea what town we were in, or what exactly was sold at this duty-free area. The only things I saw were liquors and perfumes but by the security presence I have to think it’s something else. Hmmm.