Panama Canal & Central America
We generally enjoy cruising with Holland America. The food was as good as we have come to expect, and service very good also. I was traveling with my 23 year old son and his wife, who stayed in the cabin next door, and my 27 year old daughter, with whom I shared a cabin. When we got on, we found out that one of our ports was closed, Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. We were looking forward to that port and still aren't sure why Holland America would not know ahead of time it would be closed during Easter week. This gave us, however, daytime in Panama City, which turned out to be very enjoyable.
We bought on-line time the first day and then there were specials when Holland America gave twice the time for the price, but you had to be signed up before. With the internet, we were able to check what we wanted to do in Colombia, because we didn't have time to research before we went on our cruise. For some reason, Holland America More
seems to spend a lot of time at ports where there isn't much to do, and have less time where you would like to be longer.
We had engine trouble and at one point, after we left Colombia, our engines stopped and we started going backwards. We were on the Verandah deck near the front of the ship, and there were many officers in uniform running around. The captain made an announcement that we had engine troubles, and that they would soon be fixed. It took a couple of hours, and then we were back on our way. We had gale force winds in the Caribbean sea, but we aren't prone to get sea sick and we were fine, even though the sea was very rough. The night before we got to Ft. Lauderdale, we heard a crash, then a shudder around 1:30 in the morning. In the morning we found that we were going very slowly toward Florida. It seems that there was more engine trouble. We were supposed to get off between 7:45 and 8:30 because we were supposed to be the first ones off. We didn't get off until 10:00 due to the engines having difficulties. It didn't affect us because we were planning to spend the weekend in Florida anyway. Less
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Cabin review: ver
We got a Verandah cabin at a very reasonable price. One cabin was almost totally obstructed and the other had some view. We did like the location, as it was very central. We had the first two cabins on the left side at the front of the boat. We were next to the door to go outside and outside we had the stairway to go up the front of the boat. It was good also, because we did not have a cabin opposite of us, and there were not many people walking by.
Port and Shore Excursions
We decided to get a taxi and go on our own tour here. We went on-line to decide what we wanted to see. We also read about how other people had gone on their own. We took a Holland America map from that city and marked where we wanted to go. When we got off the boat, we found the taxi people. It was somewhat confusing, because all of them were from the same company. Most were the type that take a group on a bus to specific places. It would have cost us $100 to go with them, for the four of us. Holland America offered tours of certain areas for $99 per person. We went outside of that area, even though the taxi people told us we shouldn't go out because it was more difficult to get taxis outside of there. Past the gate, there were many other taxis who offered to take us where ever we wanted to go. We chose one, and he charged us $80 for the four of us. We gave him the map, and he figured out the order to go. He was very helpful and took us around and waited for us. He even added a couple of other areas that we liked very much. Mostly, we stayed inside the old city. We went to an area that had many craft markets, saw the Cathedral, the church with St Pedro Claver in a glass coffin, the old fort, and the museum of torture. We needed to get Colombian money from an atm, and use a phone to call the United States and he took us to those places also. We called from a phone in a business which does that, and it cost about $2.00 to call the United States for about 5 minutes. The taxi driver took us back to the ship and on the way took us around and showed us the beaches, and new Cartagena. While we were at the places we decided to go, we bumped into Holland America tour groups that had chosen that site. We were able to see much more and for far less money, than if we had gone with them. When we got back we stopped in the store that you have to go through when you get on or off of the ship and were shocked at how much things cost there compared to how much they were at the craft market. I couldn't force myself to spend the money I had left and came home with almost $100 in Colombian money.
We had been here on a previous cruise, on the Ryndam and had not enjoyed it very much. This time we had arranged to take rhinos, which are souped up golf carts, through the city and up to the surrounding mountains. We made our reservations before we left through a company that had high ratings on-line. It was much cheaper than what was offered through Holland America. Our rhino tour lasted about 3 1/2 hours, and we had a guide who drove his own rhino ahead of us. We took one of the cabs that are available outside of the terminal to the company which was located in old Puerto Vallarta and drove from there through the city to the mountains and ended at a small restaurant by a river, and then drove back. It was somewhat harrowing driving through the traffic, but our guide tried to let the cars know that we had a caravan of rhinos and for the most part, the cars tried not to run us down. We found it easy to get taxis to take us to the address of the ATV company and back to the ship. The taxis are constantly driving around offering to take you anywhere. We made sure we knew the price before we got into the taxi.