28 Days at Sea - Part 2 - Los Angeles - Panama Canal - Miami: Norwegian Pearl Cruise Review by Uniall
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28 Days at Sea - Part 2 - Los Angeles - Panama Canal - Miami
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Los Angeles
Sept 24 -Oct 10, 2010
We visited with our nephew at the "San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant" located in the Ports of Call Village at 1190 Nogoya Way, about 1 mile south of the Cruise Ship Terminal for several hours. It is a great and inexpensive seafood venue that bills itself "The Home of the World Famous Shrimp Tray." They pile a restaurant size tray about 3 inches high with boiled shrimp to be served family style. After a lovely visit and a fabulous meal, we returned and re-boarded the ship about 2 pm.
We were welcomed back on board by Hotel Director Kaj (pronounced Kigh) Turunen and new Cruise Director, Andy Steinhauser, new Guest Service Manager, Roslyn Fano-Roble. The rest of the executive staff remained the same, including the inimitable Food & Beverage Director, Tony Lockett. We dined at the La Cucina restaurant with our new cruise mates, Kenny & Janica Owen, who had also stayed aboard for More back to back sailings. After dinner, we attended theater for a Welcome Aboard Show which highlighted entertainment to be presented during the cruise, including the Jean Ryan dancers.
The next day was at sea and began with a Meet & Greet attended by about 50 CCers and emceed by yours truly. I introduced Hotel Director Kaj who responded with a warm and friendly welcome to all. Food & Beverage Director Tony, reprised his role from the preceding sailing by entertaining the attendees with mirth and merriment.
Cruise Consultant, Janet D'souza hosted a well attended Latitudes Party at 1 pm in the Spinnaker Lounge. Captain Rune Myre, welcomed the guests with gracious hospitality and professionalism befitting his rank and station.
That evening we and the Owens had the pleasure of having our photo taken with Captain Myre following his VIP cocktail reception held in Courtyard on deck 14. We dined with the Owens in the Indigo Main Dining Room and the four of us attended a superb reprise of the "Oh What A Night: Tribute to Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons" in the theater.
On Sunday, we docked in Cabo San Lucas, MX. We took the NCL excursion to the sleepy village of Todos Santos (All Saints), about an hour drive from Cabo. Todos Santos is the purported home to the Song "Hotel California" made famous by the "Eagles." The town is reminiscent of pre grand resort Mexico and a breath of fresh air. We joined the Owens for a light supper in the Mambo Tex/Mex restaurant in keeping with the mood of the day. We skipped the "Second City Comedy Troupe" that evening, having been disappointed with their performance on the preceding cruise.
The next day began with a CC Bowling tournament hosted by Gordon (Charfan9). There were 16 bowlers and Sharon Rae and I assisted as kibitzers and "jeerleaders." We relaxed during the day and dined at the Summer Palace Main Dining Room before attending another performance of the Jean Ryan Dance Production of Sea Legs. It was really tough sitting through 45 minutes of beautiful show girls "strutting their stuff" in dance and song. But, as the saying goes, some one had to do it.
Tuesday, we docked in Acapulco around 7am. We met our NCL shore excursion on the pier around 8:15. Our excursion began with a bus tour of Acapulco that started with the original sleepy village area which included the famous Hotel Flamingos, a secret getaway for Hollywood stars in the 30s and 40s. It was later purchases by John Wayne as a private hotel for his pals. It's still a very lovely place but sits in a very poor and un-kept neighborhood. We then traveled to the big resort area of high rises of the 50s & 60s which has become over commercialized and reminiscent of Times Square before its clean up a decade ago. We were told that the exclusive areas are now a good distance outside of town, towards the Acapulco airport. We returned to the ship after an up close and personal performance of the world famous cliff divers. To be honest, we have no desire to return to Acapulco.
Once back aboard ship, we had a leisurely lunch in the VIP dining room and then proceeded to the theater for a special afternoon performance by the Antonio Ramirez Folklorico Festival. It was a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable production.
We accepted and invitation to dine with our Concierge, Carlos Zarate, in the Lotus Asian Restaurant. We'd had the pleasure of meeting Carlos on a previous Baltic Capitol cruise and knew him to be knowledgeable and entertaining. He was insistent that I must try the "Lotus Sushi" He failed in that endeavor but exceeded our expectations of a charming and witty dinner companion. In fact, we became so engrossed in the dinner conversation that we skipped the evening entertainment.
The following day we met Concierge Carlos in the VIP breakfast room and he escorted us off the ship in Hualtuco, MX, and we insisted that he join us in the usual on shore photo shoot. We met our NCL shore excursion leader on the pier and enjoyed a wonderful scenic drive along the coast and into the town of La Crucectia. It became clear that this area is similar to the Acapulco of 60 years ago, before overgrowth and over commercialization..
We and the Owens accepted the invitation to join Food & Beverage Director, Tony Lockett for dinner in Cagney's steak house. I've never had better service or a better meal anywhere any time........dining with the boss has it's advantages. In person, Tony is jovial, witty and, (in a little used term today) a great raconteur. He's the kind of guy you look forward to meeting for a beer in a local pub to watch a football game, even if it turned out to be a soccer match......Tony is from the UK!
On Thursday, we docked in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. Concierge Carlos escorted us ashore to meet our NCL excursion at 8 am. Our tour involved an hour and half bus ride to and from the original Spanish capitol city: La Antiqua. The city was abandoned as the capitol because it was subject to continuous earthquakes. But, it continues to be rebuilt as a living museum of the Spanish Empire. The tour visited numerous buildings dating back hundreds of years. It included lunch in a boutique hotel and restaurant housed in the courtyard villa of a wealthy Spanish merchant. Because it was a long day, we decided to order dinner from room service, served by our butler in our suite.
Friday, October 1, was an at sea day. We spent most of the day working very hard at doing absolutely nothing. Since it was "dress up or not night," we and the Owens decided to don our best and dine at Teppanyaki Japanese restaurant. The food was delicious, the company perfect, and the table chef's production superb. We had our Butler, Charlie, deliver a bottle of bubbly and four glasses to the theater to enjoy the Jean Ryan production of "Garden of the Geisha." The show was a marvelous ending to a relaxing day.
Puntarenas, Cost Rica, was our next day's port of call. We disembarked at 8 am for our NCL excursion. Originally, I'd booked an all day tour to San Jose, the nation's capitol in the central interior, but that tour was canceled. NCL never explained why. In any event, I rebooked a 7 hour tour which visited a coffee plantation and a botanical garden displaying the nation's flora. All the other tours involved some form of physical activity, such as zip lines, etc. The coffee plantation was interesting but, based on my many prior visits to Costa Rica, couldn't hold a candle to the cancelled tour of San Jose. The bus drive out and back took over an hour longer than planned because of days of rain and mud slides reducing 2 lane roads to one lane. The ship was held up, awaiting the return of NCL excursions. We dined in our cruise mates' (Owens) AB Penthouse suite and retired early after a very long day.
Sunday was an at sea day and we made it a day of leisure. Our first real activity, except breakfast and lunch, wasn't until 5 pm when we attended the Latitude's Gold & Platinum wine & cheese party where Hotel Director Kaj invited us and the Owens to join him for dinner in the Lotus Asian restaurant. While breaking bread, we found Kaj to be the perfect host and a delightful conversationalist regaling us with humorous anecdotes spanning his career in the hotel industry.
Ah Monday, Oct 4, the day we'd been anticipating since booking the cruise.....The all day Panama Canal Transit. We entered the Miraflores locks around 8 am and cleared them about an hour later. We entered the Pedro Miquel locks about 10 am and left them in about 45 minutes. The final locks were entered about 3 pm. We hosted an open house on the very large balcony of our forward facing Penthouse Suite under the Captain's bridge. It was the best seat in the house and was well attended by about 40 CCers. Hotel Director Kaj, Food & Beverage Director Tony, Concierge Carlos, Butler Charlie and Chief Deck Steward Ashwan all played a role in making our event the perfect mix of fun and frolic by providing seating on our balcony for 20 with standing room for a like number and putting out a magnificent spread of finger sandwiches, munchies, fruits, lemonade and ice tea. The ship's official photographer even arrived to take an official photo of the CCers Canal Transit Party. We unwound from the day's excitement with a light supper in the Blue Lagoon and its comfort food menu.
The day following the Canal transit, we docked in Cartagena, Columbia. We went ashore after a late breakfast, since our NCL excursion didn't begin till 11 am. We took an hour mini bus tour of the city, including a photo stop of the main fortress guarding the harbor from the Colonial days. Then, we transferred to horse drawn carriages for a 45 minute tour inside the walled colonial city. It was a great way to transport ourselves in time and spirit to the days of the Spanish Grandees and the glory days of the Spanish empire. We dined at the Indigo Main Restaurant, followed by a great banjo player in the theater. Can you believe everything from blue grass to jazz to classical music on the banjo? Well, that's what Buddy Wachter does and does very well.
Wednesday was an at sea day. We started the day with a CC "slot pull" in the casino, organized by Al (Powriv). That afternoon, we were invited for a bridge tour conducted by Captain Rune Myre. It was very interesting and many technical questions were answered. Somehow, my camera had photos of Jean Ryan dancers sun bathing on the crew deck below, interspersed with the bridge officers at their duty station.! The CCers had a farewell dinner honoring the 47th anniversary of two of our members, Irv and Sandy, from New York. The gala was held in the Summer Palace Main Dining Room and the wait staff. We then adjourned to the theater to see the Jean Ryan production "South Beach Rave" It was a great show and I was amazed that the dancers were more covered by their costumes than when I'd observed them from the bridge. The evening entertainment ended with the traditional NCL staff and officers' farewell: "We are your home, away from home, we'll be here when you return...."
On Thursday, Oct 6, our last day at sea, I received an email from former cruise mates (Colin & Liz) who would be joining us tomorrow for the last 9 days of our four back to back sailings. Colin told me he'd been contacted by the upsale fairy and was negotiating to move the four of us to a 5000 sf, 3 bedroom Garden Villa....Wow! While all our departing friends were packing to disembark the next day, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, "visions of sugar plums dance in my head," in the form of a Garden Villa. We shared a farewell dinner with the Owens in the Le Bistro that night.
On Friday, Oct 8, we said goodbye to Ken & Janica Owen over breakfast and hello to Colin & Liz Powell over lunch in the VIP dining room. My only regret was that I did not have an opportunity to introduce them to each other. I could only hope that that time will come on a future cruise.
This was a 2 day round trip cruise, from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay, NCLs private Bahaman island. For us, it was a connection for our second and fourth back to back sailing. But, to most new boarders, it was a science lab to determine how much partying can be accomplished in 48 hours. Therefore, we and the Powells decided to keep our heads down, catch up on our activities since our last get together. We dined at Cagney's on the 8th and Indigo on the 9th. Our main project was continuing the negotiations for a possible upsale, to a Garden Villa. We were told that we would learn the answer till 2 hours before sailing out of Miami on Oct 10............Oh, those visions of sugar plums were dancing in my head, again........all night. Less
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