Our cruise to the Panama Canal and four other ports of call was a great mid-winter break. The best part was the canal itself. We booked the optional tour that takes passengers through the rest of the canal and actually into the Pacific Ocean. The guide on this tour was excellent and expanded upon the narration given on the ship as it entered Gatun Lake. There was plenty to do on the sea days. The other ports - Aruba, Cartajena, Limon, Costa Rica and Grand Cayman provided plenty to see and do. Shore excursions booked through the ship in Cartajena and Limon were great ways for first-time visitors to get a feel for the areas.
The mini-suite was spacious and provided a larger closet and bathroom than a more traditional balcony cabin. The balcony was large and inviting, although it did not appear that it had been cleaned recently. Our cabin steward was excellent.
Many lodging establishments are eliminating top sheets on beds in favor of duvets and this ship was no different. The problem arises when you are in the tropics and this is much too heavy a cover when sleeping. Fortunately, when we asked, our steward was able to put a top sheet on our bed. This was plenty to keep us warm while sleeping.
The food was good in all free venues (we didn't try either specialty restaurant), however the waited service as lacking. Slow service and no beverage refills were the norm rather than the exception. Even when we mentioned we were in a hurry to get to a show, this appeared to have little effect. On the final sea day, a special English pub lunch was offered. The server seemed totally out of it, even though all four of us ordered the same thing. We were never offered a beverage or the included dessert. Fortunately, the cafe was still open with an excellent dessert selection.
It seems as though when open dining and pre-charged tipping became more popular, service standards declined. When you had the same waiter for the entire cruise and left him a tip in an envelope after your final dinner, he had the incentive to provide excellent service to earn the maximum gratuity. This level of service seems to have declined with the guaranteed tip.