We chose the Amsterdam 15 day Panama Cruise from, Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, for two reasons -- we love the Amsterdam and always enjoy the Panama Canal -- this trip being our second full transit.
We flew into LAX the day before and settled in to the Long Beach Hilton. We met friends for dinner on the Queen Mary Hotel where the next day, the Amsterdam would be docked next door to her..
Embarkation at the Long Beach Terminal was far smoother than a previous time on a Carnival ship. We arrived shortly after 11AM and were in our cabin within half an hour, the only bottleneck being the photographer's area which we slunk around. At Long Beach there is quite a long walk to the ship. We had a Deluxe Suite on the port side. Our cabin stewards were the same two we had had on our Alaskan voyage the previous June, Our stateroom was perfect at all times. Our stewards knew us and our peculiarities. Our luggage arrived the earliest it has ever arrived so we were totally unpacked prior to the Safety drill.
Unfortunately, there was no Mariner's Welcome Lunch due to a crew change of close to 50%; perfectly understandable as the voyage before was the Asia Pacific Grand Voyage. We had a very nice lunch in the Lido with a very lovely lady from England.
The Amsterdam is the flagship of HAL and was immaculate throughout. The crew was
constantly maintaining all areas in their usual outstanding fashion.
We had early dining at 5:45PM and had the same table we had the previous June. Our dining stewards were excellent. It was a pleasant surprise that the Dining Managers opened the Dining Room earlier than the stated time which made the flow of incoming diners easier. The food was presented nicely and seemed to have some different tastes since our previous cruise. This is a good thing. The only negatives are the deceasing number of shrimp in the shrimp cocktails and the new recipe for escargots which is not the traditional butter and garlic with toast points.
Daytime activities were more than plentiful. The Cruise Director Patti, who admits she is a substitute Cruise Director, was very pleasant and friendly. The travel guide was experienced and presented a number of very interesting talks, which were very well attended , about the ports of call and their history. Party planner April led a number of culinary and other presentations. I particularly enjoying hearing from the onboard florist about how he goes about procuring the materials and making such gorgeous arrangements throughout the ship. We were fortunately to have the florist who does the Grand Voyages.
We seldom go to the evening shows so cannot comment on that. We always enjoy the Adagio Strings and wish they would play longer than the one half hour at dinner.
We did a number of shore excursions and all were very good. Regarding the ports, the only negative for us, and we knew this ahead of time, is that the ship docks a at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica and not Puntarenas where we have docked in the past. Puerto Caldera is an industrial port with nothing near by so if you are unable to get an excursion or are willing to try local transportation, there is nothing to do there except for a few crafts shops on the pier. At Puntarenas, there is a little town to visit.
The Panama Canal was awesome as it has been before. All and all, a very nice relaxing trip, aboard a beautiful ship with excellent crew and service.