Pacific Princess Cruise Review by Matriarch: Ft. La De Da to Manaus 12/10 - 1/11
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Ft. La De Da to Manaus 12/10 - 1/11
The Pacific Princess was late arriving in For Lauderdale, due to experiencing "bad weather" near Bermuda - don't they have forecasters and planners to avoid sailing through weather that disabled multiple elevators, destroyed all the open stock in all the bars, and generally shook up the ship?
In any event, the line tried to "make nice" by opening a Hospitality Center at the port, where we could go to a shopping mall or stay in the Center until we boarded. Sandwiches were eventually served for dinner - but there were no special accomodations for those few children coming aboard, and the seating grew uncomfortable after the first few hours. A quartet of a capella carolers was our entertainment.
Boarded around 9:15 p.m., but by 11 still no luggage (elevators are out, remember?) so we slept in the clothes we were wearing when we left home on Tuesday evening. We didn't sail until the following morning, and learned that the line had cancelled the stop at Devil's Island, More but that we'd do a "scenic cruise-by" instead. Since that was one of two ports of significant interest to us, I was quite displeased. I would much rather have seen the Island than to spend an entire day in St. Thomas, the shoppers' Mecca, where most cruisers have been before.
The Devil's Island scenic cruise was narrated without amplification, so to hear the lecturer describe the island as we went slowly by at 6 a.m. one had to sacrifice a viewing spot at the rail to cluster around the speaker. A poor substitute for a visit to the Island of such a fabled past.
Bright spots: the crew (Captain Servillo excluded; Captain's Circle representative Sandy was able to change our flight out of Manaus to a later time on 1/5, giving us an extra day to explore the Opera House; the Club Dining Room staff and the Panorama Buffet staff, from the Maitre De through to the assistant waiters were helpful and accomodating throughout the duration of the cruise, quickly learned our likes and dislikes and catered to them; the layout of the ship, a blessing of the small ship experience, with a lovely library and nice lounge areas, and a reasonable fitness center; show production staff were excellent, visiting entertainers - tried hard, but nothing memorable. The port lecturer was adequate, but would have been enhanced had there been maps of each port available, with significant landmarks highlighted.
The high point of the cruise, in addition to Manaus, was a small group tour I organized with Gil Serique in Santarem; on New Year's Day he picked up the ten of us at the dock as soon as we were able to disembark, and took us to a small tour boat, where we had the run of the ship, and were treated to his descriptions of the birds and life along the river; he stopped the boat at an area that was walkable, while a crew member went looking for a sloth in the wild, and most of the group went off exploring the rainforest; upon return to Santarem his van took us to a small farm where a family demonstrated the harvesting of brazil nuts and cocoa beans, cutting a tree to gather the latex, grating manioc and processing it for family use.
All in all, the itinerary that sold us on this holiday cruise was significantly impacted by factors beyond our control, yet we paid by missing one port, despite spending time in Boca da Valeria, known to frequent cruisers aboard as "Bucket de Malaria" that might have been spent in a more developed area. The cruise personalizer asked about special occasions, and I entered the date of our 25th wedding anniversary, and that was completely ignored by the line - no card, nothing. I still like Princess' small ships, but will look long and hard at the itinerary before choosing to cruise with them again. Less
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