Canal & Central America - a Birder's Paradise!: Celebrity Century Cruise Review by hvbaskey
Overall Member Rating
Canal & Central America - a Birder's Paradise!
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: San Diego
Our room steward Sheldon was amazing! (assisted by Antonio). Couldn't have asked for better room attendants. They were great!!! Dining Room (Select Dining) was excellent. Never had to wait in line for a table and we usually had the same table each night. Super easy breezy and excellent wait staff and the Maitre'D, Jason was superb. We had only one glitch in 15 days as one night (long wait for a menu and bread) and we mentioned it to Jason and he was on it like bees to honey! he couldn't do enough for us! such a very nice, young man.
For most More breakfasts and lunches, we ate at the AquaSpa Cafe. We also enjoyed Islands Cafe for lunches, pre-dinner Sushi, and whatever! Cova Cafe was a lovely spot to listen to the Jazz Trio and enjoy pastries, cakes outside of dinner times.
For some reason, my port reviews could not select "Guatemala". This is the only port of call that we did with Celebrity Excursions. We booked it for the safety and security of the transport vehicle (reading before hand that the transport into Antigua could be a little risky). Well? our bus broke down and it was one of 3 that we knew of from our ship that broke down. Although we were the first bus on the road, we were the last to arrive in Antigua and our time there was cut short. I mentioned this to the Shore Excursions Manager later that night and to be quite honest, he could care less. He told me he would investigate and get back to me, with possible small compensation (loss in time of tour) and he NEVER did. NO customer service feedback at all. I am so glad that all my other tours were done privately. Our bus was broken down for a good half-hour, we were not permitted to leave it (security reasons) and it was hot, stuffy, and not pleasant. Once, we arrived in Antigua, we hired a Mayan Guide ($10 pp) who took us and 3 other people from our ship (whose bus also broke down!) and we had a great tour of the City. Our bus did leave on time (with the others) and we arrived back to the ship in good time.
I have to say the Entertainment was "OK" on the ship - the best part for us was the Jazz Trio at the Cova Cafe.
I was disappointed with the monitoring of the pool area. Kids jumping, horse playing around - many adults left the pool because of it. Last day - teenagers throwing each other into the air and into the pool. They almost threw a lounging chair with a kid on it into the pool, before an Adult stopped them. All adults left pool, as it got crazy. Security passed by several times without stopping it. Parents lounging by poolside, let their kids ruin it for others. Finally, something happened (either a kid threw up in the pool, or injury? blood in pool? our group couldn't tell from watching) - BUT! pool shut down for remainder of afternoon and it was drained later that night. So, ALL people had to go without the pool for the rest of the day, because Celebrity Staff (Security or Pool Butlers) did not stop the horseplay that was going on. This was disappointing.
Other than that - a great cruise. I would recommend to anyone to do the Cruise, but also to do your own research as well into Shore Excursions. Those who did privately, did perfectly fine. Well worth the time to read the roll calls to find out what others are doing and how they are doing it. Less
Cabin review: 9018
Booked Inside Stateroom Guarantee (Cat Z) and were assigned Cabin 4097. At check-in (embarkation) discovered we were upgraded to 9018 (Oceanview, Cat 04).9018 is at the front of the ship which is subject to motion. We did have a couple of nights of rough seas, but this did not bother us (we slept like babies!). I only mention this, in case the reader may be subject to motion sickness. The cabin was spacious with plenty of storage space and very quiet. Deck 9 has staterooms above and below - a lovely location. We enjoyed being at the front of the ship, close to the AquaSpa Cafe which we visited both for breakfast and for lunches. We felt quite lucky to be upgraded from 4097 (midship) to 9018 (front of ship) and the view was from our lovely picture window was great.
Port and Shore Excursions
Booked an independent tour with Maria Elena Muriel of "Birding Los Cabos", Mexico. Maria waited patiently as our boat tendered (it took over an hour to get off the ship). She immediately identified a few shore birds, before we were taken to a lovely park in Cabo San Lucas for "birding". She is very knowledgeable and knows the area quite well. After a couple of stops in Cabo San Lucas, she drove us to San Jose to visit the Estuary. A lovely drive and a lovely park to view birds and different scenery, other than Cabo. We were so happy to have done this excursion. Although Maria will take up to 10 people on her tours, it was just my husband & I - so a lovely private tour with a great guide. Maria had us back in plenty of time for the ship's departure.
We booked this tour with "Marelvy" - a native of Columbia. What a super nice lady and very knowledgeable of her city. We were a small group in a small van - all from the Celebrity Century. I would recommend Marelvy to anyone looking to book a small group excursion for Cartagena - she was GREAT!!!!
Our final private tour (ie., just my husband and myself). Gonzalez Horna of Birding Pal picked us up promptly at 6:30 am in Colon, Panama. We were the first ones off the ship! He immediately drove us to the Gatun Locks whereby we were hoping to cross before any traffic. Unfortunately, a silly bus rushed the planks - bumped into a wall and had a flat tire, being stuck on the car path that crossed the locks. Our guide did not waste any time waiting in line though, we successfully birded the area around the locks and saw beautiful Toucans, amongst other gorgeous birds. Finally, we crossed the Dam and headed towards the Gatun Spillway (Dam) where we spotted additional birds. After the Dam, we headed towards our Target destination - San Lorenzo National Forest - Achiote Town/Road. SPECTACULAR scenery and birding! The people of Panama are very friendly and we were happy to have a private guide who lives in Colon, knows the area and knows the people.
I know many people have said stay away from Colon, be careful in Colon - but do your homework as it can be a great visit, if you hire the right person. Gonzalo grew up in Colon and we always felt safe with him. He was a great guide and I recommend him and his team of friends to anyone wanting a great excursion from the Colon port of call.
Gonzalo had us back in plenty of time for the ship. Cannot say the same for an "Official Celebrity Excursion" who were left behind and had to be flown to our next port of call, Cartagena. The ship did wait and we were an hour late arriving in Columbia - but, yes! they left behind a Celebrity Excursion!
Booked a private tour with Alejandro Martinez (Conservationalist, Naturalist from P.V.) Alex took us to the Sierra Madre Occidentalis (Mountain Range) for Birding. He was very knowledgeable of the area and we viewed many beautiful birds!!! We ended our day at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, before going back to the ship, whereby we had plenty of time before the ship left.
We were very thankful for Alex who guided us privately on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is the night that Mexicans celebrate over the Holidays (big night), so it was very very kind of him to take time on this special day to guide us through PV's beautiful mountain range. An excellent experience.
Another private, independent trip! this time with Berny Sanchez, a Costa Rican native who had amazing knowledge of the area and what we could find. We first went to Carara National Park where we spent 5 glorious hours on a leisurely stroll on the Meandrica Lagoon Trail. An excellent time, saw so much and Berny was awesome!!! After Carara, we ventured to Playa Hermosa (South of Jaco Beach) where we encountered more beauty and spectacular birding. Berny then treated us to a Late Lunch where we saw many buses from the Cruise Ships. We returned to port in plenty of time to catch our ship. This was undoubtedly one of the best experiences (tours) I have ever had in my life. Berny was absolutely fantastic.
StarBreeze Panama Canal
Island Princess Panama Canal
Overall, A Good Trip