Since several of our roll call members for our 12/08 Azamara Quest Panama Canal Cruise have been asking where my review was, I shall attempt to put down what my (our) impressions were. To start it off I've read a couple of the reviews to see how others felt the trip was..My ideas are not always in agreement but all things are always subjective are they not?? Starting out: we were met by a very helpful lady at the Ft Lauderdale Airport, and we in a bus 20 min later with about 3 other couples (but a full coach bus!) Promptly delivered through Miami (with running commentary from driver) to terminal "J", "This is your ship..." looking up at the three HUGE floating hotels berthed there, I said "I don't think so..."(having been on Renn ships before) as did all the others . He checked at his home base, and took us to I believe "C" (Perhaps I've got the terminals mixed, sorry) Anyway there she was nestled in amongst more huge hotels on water...barely visible from the road....It was like coming home!!! (WE love these Renn. ships!) Our check in was very fast and well handled, no lines, perhaps because we came with so few people ? On board the free champagne ... by now it was 1pm and we asked if we could drop carry-ons (after Oceania losing mine (with all my meds) from the dock to room, we carry ours the whole way) in room, we were told yes...it was essentially ready, lunch was in Windows, and so our adventure started. First off we contacted Guest relations, to set up the C Critic party for the 39 of us that signed up on our Rollcall...she said she felt the 2nd "at sea" day in the library, and took my list of room numbers...and said she'd handle it all. Well in the long run Becky did the work I believe (I again apologize to Mary for having the wrong room so she never got her invite). When the time came, we were hoping for Becky to attend, but as they walked in we had ALL SORTS of white uniforms to address us...You better believe WE HAVE POWER!!! as a group...We ended up with Hotel, Guest relations, Dining, waitstaff, Cruise director Becky (all the HEADS of Departments).. answering our queries, however silly some were! Then wonder of wonders...in walked the best looking guy I ever saw (had seen him the day before tho) and introduced himself to those not at the" Welcome Toast" the day before...Capt. Emmanuoil... (Won't even try the last name) from Athens. Don't know who was running the ship??? Stayed at least 15 min.answering questions. YES they are listening to what we have to say (note the news about the Specialty Rest.!) Several things were changed because of this meeting! Laura (Not Chopped Liver) and I were pleased our attempts to do this worked out so well! We also requested Christmas caroling, which Becky brought off with a great flair, in the Coffee shop, with the whole ship invited. As you know we missed Jamaica,( a huge disappointment as we had a great tour set up) but I 100% agree with the choice not to tender..it would NOT have been safe! The seas were at least 15',(caused we discovered later by a tropical storm approaching from the east) High enough that Mike (my DH) was feeling "not well" and we never get seasick! We also discovered what it was like to be a pin ball in a game, bouncing from wall to wall (Let me say tho sleeping was fine, I still miss being rocked to sleep each night, and beds are wonderful!) Being on the top cabin deck (8) we were bounced abit more than we were used to....So we had 3 at sea days in a row. We couldn't wait to get off at St Marta....well...the least said about the ships tour we took there the better. We took the "Quebrada etc etc. Eco tour". Believe me you get far more eco than you want to...fording a river 4 times each way in your shoes, and without being warned about it. I decided to leave the tour less than 1/2 way, as I use a cane it was way longer and harder a trip than advertised. NO NO it was not the best trip, but the part we did see was fascinating. We also got NO free coffee as was previously reported, just people pushing it to sell to us! (did get a free bracelet)Taxis were the way to go I guess from others.Our guide was great the TOUR was awful! Next day Cartagena..(Please "Cart-a-hay-nyah!") Had a great private tour of the major sites with "Encarnacion" of Tessor tours. Vendors a little pushy but still polite with it, (still sorry I didn't buy a tablecloth there) It's a beautiful old city and tour was well worth the time. Our guide was a native and gave us a lot of history, when we bothered to listen. About time I addressed what seems to be everyones overwhelming concern,(except the Butler question no ours wasn't and didn't pretend to be, he quickly realized we wouldn't want afternoon tea "nap time" or 5pm Canapes but they did a wonderful job of cleaning etc., without "being there" when we were, thanks Mario, as he said "Butlers don't change beds etc." and he had to! ) On to the FOOD. We had a very mixed bag of food and service, none of it really BAD but some better than others, first night the Sea Bass in Discoveries was fabulous, so were many other meals there, but the Lobster night fell really flat (I was spoiled by a family member who'd bring live lobster from Maine,) and this wasn't tho was supposed to be...it was spotted shells and tails...(Maine Lobster turns bright red when cooked). And what they did with it was supposed to be great...wasn't, and Mike had the prime rib, previously great, and it ...wasn't..! Those desserts some were very good, others...NOT. The cone like (1 1/2")serving..."bowls??"... look really cool, can't eat out of them though, unless you use the handle of your spoon 50% of dessert in unreachable. Mostly though the food was very good both upstairs at Windows and Discoveries, and yes Gustave sang to us too, (and anybody who asked,) very nice voice. Was fun .The waitstaff circulate from Venue to venue, the guy being Maitre D' in Aquilina was working the breakfast buffet the next day.(Promised to send us Kadota Figs from his home in Turkey ....) Some were very inept...those 2 guys from Croatia doing Windows..looking like KGB muscle delivering OJ and not much else. Above all, the enthusiasm and drive to please was very strong. The next to last morning the fab. HUGE blackberries had run out...and the ones they had were still red...unripe and sour so I didn't eat them...the very young waiter was worried that I didn't like them...so I explained. He went inside...(We were on the back terrace) Mike said "you'd better go check on him" (we were done and leaving) and there he was at the bowl of berries fishing out the few ripe ones he could find for me with his boss behind him chuckling!! All the staff had this attitude if you approached them with the right attitude! We never asked for "Special treatment, or special treats" we are firm believers in the midwestern ideal all truly ARE created equal and nobody is better than me, conversely I am not better than the others. I did ask for 2 desserts once though! To tours: We had a very GOOD tour from Oscar Brown in Limon which I set up not somebody else, to Zipline. His sister was our guide and made it a very fun day. Consensus has it that the dual tour we took of Ziplining and the Canal tour was perhaps too much, and the road repairs that made it hard to do all we wanted, but we did make it back in time. We saw few animals on the afternoon Canal tour, would suggest that to be in the morning, but it was interesting. Our guide played games and gave prizes to those who won, and gave us history in a fun way also (but she gets seasick so didn't ride boat on canal, I missed her wit!) next to the St Marta tour it was great! Limon is a poor area, and we discovered from our guide in Caldera that the people from Limon are different from most of Costa Rica, who are indian and spanish ethnically, as the Limon people are from slaves escaped from Jamaica, and are mostly African blood. So both ports are worth visits. Next we did the Canal...the whole day was very interesting, no tours for us, thought people should have found the Canal enough, plus the fact that it rained half of the day (When in the Locks naturally) would have made tours unpleasant. After at sea day we were in Caldera, this time we'd set a ships' tour "Costa Rican Traditions". It was probably the best tour of the trip, a very comfortable bus... with the most delightful guide, who explained the traditions and people of Costa Rica, answered all questions, with excellent english. She was an Engineering student about 30, and very pretty, and very intelligent. People were worried about the long ride each way to reach the Doka Coffee estate, but the countryside is volcano mountains, so green, verdant, and covered with coffee trees. The plantation is beautiful, and set up to explain coffee growing and processing. Afterward we had an authentic Costa Rican lunch (included) at a Hacienda owned by the bus provider, who's wife runs this for passengers on tours. Very good (surprisingly not spicy) food. Nap time on way back, as we traveled the famous Pan-American Highway. MY only complaint is the bus took 2 different ways, and somehow coming & going I ended up looking at the 2000' drop offs next to the road!!! Which terrify me! Ah Yes On to San Juan Del La Sur Nicaragua: What can one say about the road from there to Grenada...or anyplace else I guess. We didn't understand why the trip should take 2+ hrs...until.. "THE ROAD" ...a kind term frankly. We alternately named it (NOT affectionately) the minefield and/or the "worst thing we'd ever driven over!!", for the 1st 30 mi., then a nice road (the Pan Amer. again) then into Grenada . The cars, buses even semi's did what I thought of as the "Nicaraguan Minuet", swerving from side to side to avoid the 6' wide (maybe that deep too)potholes that covered the road...at least half was potholes. The strange thing was the cars from the left swerved to the right while those on the right swerved left...all over the road...if it was good enough for them to drive on why are we on their side???where they won't drive??? And again looking at (mere 20') drop off as they drive within inches of edge to avoid those blessed potholes! Once we got to Grenada we had a wonderful tour, with horse drawn carriages and boat ride to the Isletas, to see the homes that take up the whole small Island, and the Monkey Island.(One is for sale..20th Century only 1/2 mil.) This was a private tour again which cost only 65$pp (ships tour...234$) lunch was included at a wonderful Hotel/Rest. a very nice meal.Tierra Tours. Next port was Huatulco, we were so tired we finally decided to not do anything but a little siteseeing and shopping (grand-daughters gifts were still missing). All else thought it was a beautiful port and enjoyed their tours. Acapulco was just rushing to get to airport, only to wait...others have had comments about that...we only had to sit and wait forever. Mexico City however...we changed planes had a layover that had shrunk because of late planes in Aca. They suggested a wheelchair for me...am I glad they did. That place is HUGE and not much real Idea about where to go and where our flight was out of. As we traveled Mexican Air...we landed at a domestic terminal, not realizing that Mexico City airport is just as huge as O'Hare and no shuttles to get you around! My "Pusher" must compete in the olympic event for pushing. HE RAN the whole way and the whole way was like going from International Ter. in O'Hare to the domestic terminals, (which you use a shuttle for) but being pushed high speed through MANY many people, with poor Mike carrying our carry-ons running to keep up. If he'd lost sight of us he had NO idea how to get where ever it was we were going!. As I'm NOT a small person the poor guy was panting (as was Mike) when we finally got to...the wrong place...luckily was still in near vicinity of proper desk. When we went to tip...Mike had only 50$ or 7$ small bills...well guess what the guy got...and was NOT happy! Finally getting on our plane we taxied (late) to the takeoff place only to have announcement of trouble (No water in restrooms or kitchen)..next thing we knew we're going back for Maintenance to look at it...and again taxiing far enough to reach O'Hare on ground...we fixed our problem (A valve turned off!). Then the plane proceeded to back up (no not with help of those little trucks) at least 2 blocks around other aircraft and around corners, to reach taxiway again. We were only 2 hrs late to O'Hare but were greeted with freezing downpour.....What a day!!! In closing: We had a great trip, the ship is beautiful, had NO problems with staff, water was fine, though the tossing of the ship ruptured a pipe on deck 4 and was needed to shut off water (After a swift "duck" tape job), but we were well warned beforehand by a couple hrs. The Azamara lines are trying to be what they advertise with everyone as a big team, The staff for us was friendly, helpful and always there for us, but our expectations were "to be treated well, not as royalty (tho some say they actually were)and have great meals with many different people and staff"...all of which we did do. Several people will always be in our minds, Mary the 83 yr old lady we spent much time with and didn't get to say goodbye to...she was so special. Carol and Bob, Laura & Marv , Don and wife (sorry the Badgers didn't win but WE thought they played well) and many other Cruise Critic folks, as well as others we met along the way. All in all it was a wonderful, tiring vacation and we enjoyed almost every min. of it .(Sorry St. Marta. we just took the wrong tour, if we'd realized the Atocha treasure was there we'd have done a city tour) Napi was glad to have us home too!