Our Panama Canal cruise is the most outstanding cruise we've taken so far - we've been to Alaska, Caribbean, Mexican Rivera (a lot). This cruise vacation, as described by RCCL, is filled with boatloads of activities, wonderful adventures and unforgettable experiences. This is so true! We started in San Diego and our ports are Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Huatulco, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama Canal, Grand Cayman and ends in Miami.
Embarkation is very easy in San Diego. As a Californian, we've embark in LA, San Pedro and San Francisco. San Diego is the easiest embarkation we've had so far. Everything just flows smoothly. Our luggage arrived at our cabins juest before dinner (6pm). Some of our neighbors (fellow passengers) didn't get their luggage and would ask if they can go to the Dining Room as they care (casual). The MDR did not have any problem at all!
The MDR staff are outstanding as well. They would chase the passengers down though, if you forgot to use the anti-bacterial lotion. They were very careful and cleaning all the tme in all dining room areas, the hallways,restrooms and all public areas. Out MDR hostess, Aishe is very splendid! I met her on the first night and she asked for my name. After that, whenever we go to the MDR, she greets us by our name and gives me a hug. My father-in-law got jealous that he wants a hug as well (lol). Our waiters, Angel aka Ico and his assistant, Edgar are outstanding as well. His section is 5 tables for a total of at least 25 people - most of the passengers are Diamond Plus members (we got belittled because we were only Platinum). But, Ico and Edgar gave our table the best service - thanks my fellow filipinos! We were told that some Diamond or Plus members sometimes act like they own the ship and demands they be served first. Ico & Edgar treats everyone the same. We were seated next to a couple (2 in a table) from UK. We call her Queen Margaret and her husband is Brian. They were in the previous cruise from Vancouver to SD (repositioning), so their table and cabin were the same. We became friends with them since we were the friendly group. We laugh all the time as to how they would pronounce some words and how americans pronounce those words. Margaret sometimes would catch me pronouncing some words the british way - since that's how we pronounce it. Ico's wife works in the MDR too and we see her during breakfast. Our head waiter/supervisor is Singh and another good head waiter is Pedro. They are always smiling and very helpful. One morning after breakfast, I came back to the MDR to give something to Ico's wife and she was gone, but Pedro was there. Pedro want to the galley to look for her and called the MDR phone. There weree 5 of us talking next to the phone so we looked at each other. I later on answered the phone and it was Pedro calling for me. He liked the way I answered the phone (Reflections dining room, how can I direct your call?).
Since this is a long cruise, we became friends to a lot of passengers that we see almost everyday, from breakfast to the activities to lunch to dinner and to the shows. The Cruise Staff is outstanding as well:cruise director, Mike Szwajkowski (just came back from vacation) and his assistant Mitch and Ricky Ricardo and Tommy. Mike and Mitch worked hard - from the morning show to the evening show on TV as well as all the Evening Shows/entertainment. Ricky and Tommy are so fun to mingle with. We enjoyed the Wii Bowling everyday, the line dancing classes, bingo and karaoke. Ricky even chased me down the Theater the first night to ask for names of the rest of my group. The cruise program administrator is from the US and she let me help her give out the tender tickets. During Karaoke nights, since they do not have a good song selection, they let me use my Ipod - as long I talk to the sound engineer. It wasn't a problem with Jojo, my fellow filipino again! One night, the staff didn't have enough time for karaoke after the group contest (I believe it was time for them to sign-off). Jojo took my Ipod and gave me the microphone. I was like...Ok everyone has left and only a few were still at the Safari Club. So I did my song and after my song, out of nowhere, the staff were still there and Tommy came running screaming! (It reminds me of Elvis and a fan - lol). From then on, they would have me sing on karaoke nights and I was also on the Guests Talent Show. The Evening Shows/Entertainment are outstanding as well: from Marty Allen (who would think he's still around) and his wonderful wife, Karen; the comedy of Joey Van; magic of Nick Lewin; ukelele David Pengelly; the Liar's game; the crew show; and Horizon - Motown group from Detroit (I call them Kobe, Harper and Barkley). Everyone from the staff, to the crew to the entertainers are all friendly, courteous, polite and respectful.
Our room steward was outstanding too but I give credit to Percy (Suites steward) and to Ken (Concierge). They did the best to make our cruise comfortable, memorable and fun. During port days, we see the staff and crew on port or in the gangway. Even the dining crew and waiters meet and greet us in the gangway or port and since it was too hot on some days, they would give us an ice-cold face towel. We saw some crew on some ports (their day/time off) and they will still be friendly and helpful. We had some fun times hanging out with them. The security personnel were all friendly as well. We told them the first time that my father-in-law has a Pace Maker - they would tell him he can't go thru the security scanner. One day, we got busy talking and dad accidentally went thru the security and he beeped! OMG, everyone in the security was so concerned and nervous and asking if he was ok. We laughingly told them it's ok - he needs the boost/buzz anyway. (I guess the scanner will give the pace maker a jolt - but dad says it didn't).
What I liked the most is the 3 Formal Dinner - Men are in Tux and women in long formal gowns. We also did have 2 nights of semi-formal nights (suits and cocktail dresses) and the rest is Casual (no jeans). What's funny is they will still allow guests to come to the MDR on Casual days in jeans or shorts - depending on the situation. It happened to us when we were in Guatemala. The compass states that we arrive at 10:30am and leave at 6:30pm. The night before, we told the Purser's desk if they (Purser) and the Captain is aware that our tour is from 11am to 7pm (8 hours tour). If the ship is leaving at 6:30pm, then we're not back yet! We were assured that we will not be left behind. And they were there when our bus pulled in at 7:10pm on the port (there was a heavy downpour on our way back). Our dining roommates told us they saw our bus pulling in and everyone is running. While in the bus, we took a census as to who is going to dinner and if anyone is changing their clothes. Since we didn't have time, we told some passengers that we will go to the MDR as we are (in daisy dukes) and see if they will let us in. Some people (in jeans) followed us. Aishe let us in and the waiters (even the ones not ours) are all smiles and jokingly told us we almost missed the ship! Our waiter, Ico was happy to see us and accommodate us. Later on, it was only us left in the MDR and there were about 10 waiters waiting on us - giving us all the dessert there is in the menu to try.
We did go on the Bridge Tour (no fee). It was fun since I've seen the bridge engineers every day from the day we embarked - seen them passing by our cabin, waving at them while they were in the bridge and I'm in the balcony (our cabin was on the bridge floor and we were 5 doors from the bridge). When we were in Cabo, we were in the line (going back) with Fergus Stevens (2nd Engr from Canada) and we chatted with him. I mentioned to him that I want to go the Bridge and he told us to ask the front desk (front desk didn't do anything but Kenneth from Concierge did). So, during the bridge tour, Fergus already knows us (and others that would wave at me from time to time). While at the Canal (Panama), I have pictures of Captain Stig Nilsen navigating (from our balcony). I couldn't stay long on the Bridge since I had to get ready for the Guest Talent show that afternoon. They told everyone about the show and watched it as well.
Overall, we had a great time! No negative comment about the whole cruise, the food, the entertainment, on-board activities, the staff, the crew (just a little about the dancers - we didn't see them).