Rotterdam Cruise Review by jollyelf: Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic
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Panama Canal - Pacific to Atlantic
Our journey began out of San Diego. We went the night before and stayed at the Hacienda Suites Hotel in Old Town. It was a perfect choice. The rooms were spacious and lovely, they provided free transfer from airport to hotel and again from the hotel to the port. Old Town is quite charming and there were lots of fun places to eat within walking distance.
This cruise was filled with sea days and the activities for on board entertainment were disappointing. Scheduling was really bad for events during the day and in the evening. We prefer fixed dining and were upset that the only option was to eat at 8:30pm which I consider rather late. The primarily Indonesian staff were quite charming. It seems like we were always rushing to get to the Lido Buffet or dining room because of the very limited amounts of time they were opened. Even when we had a night tour in Fuerte Amador there were no accommodations for our late arrival back on the ship and were told to use room service. More That night while we were on a tour they had a bar b que on board. Strange scheduling!
The entertainment was very mediocre. There were four singers as part of the ensemble and two female dancers who must be pole dancers when not on the ship. Sometimes it would have been better if they just sang and didn't have some of the hokey dialogue in the show. The 60's show would have been so much better. During the course of the cruise we had a screeching electric violin, comedian, comedian/magician, and the one bright spot was a performance by Bobbie Brook Wilson who is the son of 50's rock icon Jackie Wilson. His performance was the only good show on the cruise. This was one cruise where you didn't have to rush to find a seat because most nights the theater was empty.
The slots in the casino have all been altered in some way to only let you play certain lines and after one night I decided there was no need to ever return there.
The primary day activity was sort of New Age exercise classes, current movies or sit by the pool. Not much for so many sea days. At least there were quite a few bridge players so my husband was happy.
Our first stop was Puerto Vallerta. It was Good Friday and there were many reinactments of the carrying of the cross towards the crucifixation. Very interesting. This is a lovely port and there is lots of over priced silver jewelry available. Nice port.
I'm not going to mention the sea days inbetween ports, just will focus on the ports themselves.
Huatulco was our stop on Easter Sunday. There was a charming open air church were we attented Easter Services with a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" in a very 3/4 Mexican version. Loved it. This is not a large port but there are lots of little ships and they have dancing and lots of entertainment in the area.
Puerto Chiapas is without a doubt the worse port ever. There are two pyramid structures which are not air conditioned. One has a large pool and the other has shops and a pit where dancers perform. It was at least 110 degrees with about 90% humidity that day. They do advertise $2 beers but the heat is unbearable. The shops, once again, are very over priced and in one stall a woman tried to bargain with the vendor and he told her to leave. They seem to be out of touch with pricing and expect that the ship has all "rich" people so prices are high. Not worth getting off the ship but there was an Internet Cafe so I guess that made it a good stop.
Next stop was Puerto Quetzel, Guatemala. Very nice port. Lots of shops but also very hot. We took the bus tour to Antigua which was very interesting. There are over 400 active volcanoes in Guatemala and along the way you pass some of them. Went to the jade factory which was a nice stop. In the center of town there is a large fountain and the women were lined up there doing their laundry. The women carry almost anything you can imagne on baskets on their heads. One person said she saw a baby up there. Since this is in the mountains it's nice and cool up there. Shopping was a disappointment because once again the prices are very high. There were some beautiful woven jackets but they are just cut square so when you put them on the fit is awful and they were priced at $70. This was probably my favorite stop on the cruise.
We arrived in Fuerte Amador in the evening and were tendered to the dock. The ship didn't handle this very well at all. There were approximately 1,500 passengers trying to go ashore and they used two tenders. It took forever. We took a tour of Panama by night and walked through the old Colonial areas and drove through the streets of Panama which are lined with skyscrapers. When we returned to the dock the line for the tenders was about a mile long so we went to eat at a restaurant near there. Finally the line dwindled enough to go back on the last tender.
The next day we started our crossing at around 8:30am. It's a very interesting experience and takes almost all day. Along the way we saw the Guayacan trees in full bloom. Apparently they only bloom 4 days out of the year so this was a special treat. Saw crocodiles sunning on the shore and enjoyed the slow process of going through the canal. Reached the exit around 4pm.
Last stop was Cartegena. We were there the same day that the big president's conference was happening so we had limited access to the sights. We did take a tour so had permission to go through the old colonial area but just saw the downtown skyline from the distance. People who tried to go independently weren't allowed to go anywhere. It was a nice tour. That area is quite charming and the flowers on the balconies were magnificent.
Then we had two more sea days to Ft. Lauderdale.
Wondering if any of the other passengers came home sick. My husband and I both contacted pneumonia. Not the best way to return from a nice cruise. Less
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Cabin was spacious with lots of storage space. Overall very comfortable. Strange having a mini tub - too short for a bath and a little difficult to get in for the shower. Didn't have a refrigerator but they did bring ice.
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