Leaving Ft. Lauderdale with a group of 15 retired teachers we were ready for fun and exploring new places. My DH and I were scanning the castaway crowd for clues to who might also belong to our Cruise Critic group. Where was Patti with her purple hat? Where was MsFancy with her Canadian scarf? We were so excited to meet the group after months of chatting. It was to be a wonderful time together. Than You Cruise Critic for allowing us to meet. Our seas were smooth and as if on cue, it only showered during the night. We had days of lazy sea life broken by excursions into beautiful countries and friendly faces. Everyone was so proud to share their home with us.
This was our 3rd cruise and first with Holland America. We enjoyed the older crowd of relaxed mostly retirees. There were no beauty contests to be found but never have I seen such a huge group of friendly people. Many were Canadians enjoying a long trip home via Ft. Lauderdale. Everyone on this trip got an A+ for good attitude. It started from the top with a very visible Capt.Christopher Turner and continued with Cruise Director Gene Young. Gene must have discovered the secret to perpetual motion because he never stopped going. His vitamins must be the best!
There were many activities on sea days, to each his own. The Crow's Nest was a real hot spot for reading, computer work and talking. We did so much talking and sharing our lives.
It was sad when we finally discovered that the dreaded NORO virus had invaded and all the advance precautions had not prevented it. The crew was especially hit hard on this trip. CD Young reported that the crew had put in over 6000 extra shifts to help to provide us with a great trip despite the illness.Both the crew and passengers are to be praised for carrying on despite the interruption and necessary precautions we all had to follow.
PUERTO CALDERA Costa Rica was our next port.It was frightening at first to see the armed Puerto Rican soldiers but we realized that they were for our protection. Our tour was the Rainforest Aerial Tram. The bus guide was wonderful and showed us many interesting things.The walking tour through a planted area gave us the opportunity to see native plants and critters (caged snakes). This part would be a little difficult for people with mobility problems. The guides were very educated and helpful. When we boarded the 8 passenger trams we met another guide who could spot many of the rainforest inhabitants on this 45 minute ride. Then we were treated to a delicious Costa Rican meal. It was one delight after another.
PUERTO CHIAPAS Mexico is a struggling little town. They tried very hard to make us feel at home. Our Mangrove Bird Watching adventure was different and fun. Birds move around early so try to join one of the first boat rides. There are 6 passengers, a boatman, and guide in each boat. We saw many birds, crabs, and plants. The people were very accommodating and we felt the trip was worth the time and expense.
The port facilities are excellent. There is an internet cafe, $5 for 30 minutes on their computers or bring your own. There are clean, neat shops and native dancers and crafters all day. The beer is really cold and lots of shade is provided. Off duty crew members and a few passengers enjoyed the free pool available dockside.
The PANAMA CANAL was the main purpose of the trip and it didn't disappoint us. The guide joined us early in the day.He stayed aboard the entire transit while educating us about the construction and history of the canal. It's a difficult to share adequately but truly an awesome experience. The forward decks were open all day and people wandered around the Zuiderdam looking at every possible angle to take in going through the locks and sighting the blue Pacific at the far end.