This was a great cruise! My husband Ed and I have been on 7 previous cruises, all with Royal Caribbean and they have all been wonderful.
We began our vacation by traveling from the Ontario airport in California to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We flew on Continental Airlines and the flight was really affordable ($135 pp.) Upon arrival to Ft. Lauderdale we had an easy transport, via free hotel shuttle, to the Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport and Cruise port Hotel, again really affordable $79. The hotel was beautiful and is located directly next door to the enormous Bass-Pro Shop Complex. We walked to the restaurant from the hotel and had an excellent seafood dinner. Afterward we wondered the huge store looking at the waterfalls and fish aquariums. The next morning we went to the lobby and we were driven free to the Cruise Port Terminal at 10:30 AM by the hotel. Upon arrival to the terminal we had an easy luggage transfer to the porters, $5 tip, and entered the facility to get our cruise id cards. Because we are Celebrity Elite members we had virtually no line to wait in. From the time we entered the port, walked through security, and were issued our new room/charge cards it took a total of 11 minutes.
Once on board we were greeted with champagne and then went to lunch. We were able to enter our room (Concierge 9104) at 1:00 PM. Awaiting our arrival we found a beautiful fruit bowl, two bouquets of flowers, snacks, and champagne. Our luggage arrived to our room around 4:15 PM and we quickly stashed everything away. The room had lots of great storage space and we brought a lot of stuff!
We had second dinner seating at 8:30 PM, so our theatre show times began at 7:00 PM each night. The shows were all amazing! There was a great variety of wonderful talent on board the ship. The comedy was good, the dancers were super talented, and the musicians were incredible.
The second night of the cruise we had our Celebrity sponsored Cruise Critic Party. It was so much fun to meet all the wonderful people that we had been talking to for 6 months.
Each night of the cruise we were permitted entry into the Elite Captain's Club for drinks and horderves. We met many wonderful people and it was a nice relaxing evening each night before the showtime. My husband is strictly a beer drinker, none of the wine or fancy mixed drinks for him. We were slightly disappointed in the mere 3 beer choices available in the Elite Lounge - Heineken, Bud, and Bud Light. (I know its hard to complain when it's free, but he's kind of a beer connoisseur & those three all all yucky), so my husband just decided to buy the beer he liked while in the lounge. Later that evening we were approached by Koray, the Bar/Beverage Manager on board. He had heard about Ed buying his beer while in the Elite Lounge and wanted to ask what type of beer he liked. The next evening while in the lounge Ed was told to order whatever type of beer he wanted. Now that's what I call service!!
During the cruise we visited 6 ports of call and the Canal: Cartagena, Columbia; Colon, Panama; Panama Canal (cruising); Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
We booked Celebrity excursions for every port of call. In Cartagena we did the Mangroves and Swamp Ecological Tour - $72.75. It was a neat tour where we boarded canoes and rowers took us through the dense rain forest. Then we went to a local hotel and were permitted access to the pools, food, and drinks for the remainder of the tour. It was a nice relaxing day.
In Colon we did the Gatun Lake Safari - $129. This was a fun tour. We boarded a bus that took us to a boat on Gatun. The boat guide navigated us through the lake and pointed out various types of birds, crocodiles, and monkeys. Later, we stopped at an island and offered lunch, sodas, kayaking, and fishing opportunities. It was fun.
In Puntarenas we did the Costa Rica's Favorites - $149. Our bus broke down on the way to the tour site and we were on the side of the road for an hour. It was OK, though. The weather was a nice 75 degrees and the tour operator ran across the street to a market and purchased watermelon for everyone. It was just a crazy thing that happened but we all made the best of it and our tour tuned out to be one of the best ones we attended. We started off on a boat where the tour guide took us around and spotted about 40 crocodiles. They were so close to us and it was really amazing to see their size and strength. We spotted at least 15 kinds of birds and we also saw several monkeys. Afterward, we were transported to a great park and we were served a wonderful lunch. After about an hour we were guided on a walking tour of the park and shown many varieties of snakes, insects, plants, and birds. The guide was knowledgeable about everything we saw. After the walking tour, we were escorted to an aerial gondola for an awesome forest canopy ride. The ride lasted about 45 minutes and the views were spectacular!! Waterfalls and a large variety of birds were everywhere. This was my favorite tour of the cruise and I would recommend it to everyone!! Totally worth the money.
In Puerta Quetzal we did the Auto Safari Chapin - $50.75. We were told that this was the first time that Celebrity stopped at the Guatemala port of call. The port and scenery was very clean. This was notable, as the previous stops so far had been really dirty,(trash on the ground, etc.) This tour was at a privately owned Wild Animal Park. The park was spotlessly clean and maintained. There was a huge variety of animals and they all appeared to be fat and sassy. We were on board a 15 passenger bus and were able to open the windows and take pictures of all the animals. Afterward, we were permitted to walk at our own pace throughout the park and visit the rest of the animals. The park had a great restaurant and we ordered some authentic Guatemalan food and some terrific ice cream. We also sampled two of the local beers, which were great. The prices were crazy-reasonable. Great Day!!
In Puerto Vallarta we did the All Inclusive Resort Getaway - $81.75. We were taken to a beautiful ("Club-Med" Type) Resort. upon arrival we were given nice towels and decided to go for an ocean swim. The water was wonderful and warm; and a variety of fish were swimming around us. Next we chose a nice lounge chair and entered one of the many beautiful swimming pools. We swam up to the pool bar and the bartender started making me Mojitos. After about 2 hours and 4 drinks I was feeling no pain. We then decided to venture into one of the three restaurants and have lunch. The buffet food was wonderful and there was a large variety of different foods to choose from. We had a great day!!
In Cabo San Lucas we did the Cabo's Premier Yacht Experience - $124.00. We boarded a 72' custom built yacht and it was really nice. Two bathrooms, a large kitchen and dining room, living room, front and rear decks, and a large covered top floor the length of the craft. We sailed around the marina, and ventured out to sea to view the beautiful scenery. We saw many large sea lions and they barked at us as we floated by. The boat took us out to sea and the two Captains threw out their fishing lines to see if any large fish could be captured. We ended up in a private cove and they brought out the snorkeling gear. We snorkeled for about an hour and then were treated to a terrific lunch and some great drinks. The crew was really friendly and accommodating to everyone. On the way back to the marina the Captain received a message that a pod of hump back whales had been spotted. He took us back out to sea and located the spot. Within 10 minutes we spotted four huge whales about 10 feet from our boat. It was really incredible and this wasn't even part of the excursion! This was a wonderful excursion.
However, the rest of the day was not so great! When we got back into port the shopping vendors were overly agressive. We decided to stop in to the Senior Frog's Restaurant for some snacks and beers. They brought the menu over with no prices on it. We ordered two beers, chips and salsa, and some tacos. In the mean time someone came over and snapped our photo. About 20 minutes later we got the food and someone brought over a photo, offering to sell it for $20. It was cute so I bought it. When the bill for the food came I couldn't believe my eyes. It was $52 !!!!! I questioned the server and he said that was the conversion rate, which we know was a complete lie. My husband got extremely angry and the server sent over the manager, who basically said too bad, that's the price! We paid and left (what else could be do??), but we totally felt like the stupid Americans that got SCREWED!!! Don't go to Senior Frogs if you visit Cabo!! They SUCK and will take advantage of your trust.
We finished out our cruise by exchanging e-mail addresses with many great new friends. We had a terrific time. This Celebrity Cruise was definitely taken by an older group of folks. We are 41 years old and I would guess the average age of the cruisers on board were more closer to the 65 age range. No big deal, just an observation. The Infinity Ship was beautiful but in need of the much anticipated revamp in a couple months. There were a lot of activities on board, but they did seem to be geared more towards the older crowd. Again, no big deal, fun is where you make it! We had a great time meeting all the interesting people and have made wonderful friends from Australia, the UK, Canada, and the U.S.
We purchased the Sommelier's 5-bottle wine package and the in Stateroom Bar Setup. One bottle of Malibu Rum and one bottle of Absolut Vodka, with all the mixers we requested. Both were a good deal and it was enjoyable to have some of the liquor pre-paid for prior to our cruise.
The Panama Canal is definitely a cruise the everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime! Thanks Celebrity!!