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Home > Virtual Cruises > Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Mariner: Panama Canal
Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Mariner: Panama Canal
Day 1: Ft. Lauderdale
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: Grand Cayman
Day 4: San Andres Island/At Sea
Day 5: Panama Canal/Gatun Yacht Club
Day 6: Puntarenas
Day 7: Huatulco
Day 8: Cabo San Lucas
Day 9: San Diego
Day 10: Back on Terra Firma
Related Links
Seven Seas Mariner ship review
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Day 10: Monday, Back on Terra Firma
Back on Terra FirmaWe started this journey with the phrase, "What goes around comes around," and ironically it applies equally to the conclusion. I forgave the initial snippiness of Compass Rose's wait staff based on the fact that the first night's dinner is always a logistical nightmare due to passengers only wanting to dine alone before new friendships had been forged, straining the seating capacity of the room.

But at last night's final dinner I saw the same barely suppressed impatience, as did many of my fellow passengers. You could not blame it on the fact that tips had already been paid, as I would have assumed on ships other than this line's where tipping is included in the fare. Nor could you blame "first night syndrome" as we saw interesting groupings of new friends and acquaintances (many of those connections extended throughout the cruise and across the range of activities, from meals to shore excursions to the "be there or be square" trivia-cum-tea fandangos nightly in the Horizon Lounge).

But thinking about my fellow passengers led me to another conundrum. From the moment I boarded Mariner, one of the things that stood out as exceptionally unusual was the chipper attitude of the reception/purser staff. No eye-rolling, barely suppressed impatience here. All guest inquiries were dispatched with a smile and a real effort to be helpful. And now the reason for this became apparent to me. Without taking anything away from reception's customer service skills, a great deal of the credit must go to Mariner's passengers themselves. Never have I seen such a low "whine level" on a cruise ship. It comes from the fact that by and large, these are a well-traveled lot, and it takes more than a little hiccup in the smooth flow of their cruise experience to throw them off their stride. It also makes one's fellow passengers prime candidates to share a table and break bread with. There are so many interesting stories that even the six-course degustation menu flies by seemingly in an instant.

Disembarkation was uneventful: Mariner follows the nearly industry-wide procedures of color-coding disembarkation times based on the time constraints of individual passengers' travel plans. As on most ships, guests are asked to leave their rooms by 8:30 a.m. and wait in public rooms. But there were two things I really appreciated about Mariner's procedures, and they were both things that weren't there. First, there was no "important disembarkation talk" that one person from each cabin had to attend in the main show lounge -- these passengers are too sophisticated to need that. All the info was on a one-page instruction sheet delivered to each suite. This spared us the instructional parable of the passenger who forgot to leave an outfit to wear off the ship the next morning and had to disembark in a sheet/towel/wife's dress/naked, etc. Secondly, since we had cleared immigration in San Diego, there were no annoying calls to recalcitrant passengers who had yet to present themselves to the authorities.

When our color was called we literally zipped ashore, found our bags in a heartbeat and were on our way out the door. Though we had transfers, one look at the lineup of big motor coaches waiting immobile till filled to the brim led us to connect up with another couple bound for LAX. Our individual fares, divided equally among us, wound up being about the same as a seat on the big buses, (which had yet to arrive at the airport by the time we had all completed curbside check-in).

And at that point, dear readers, I would love to end the story with our plane lifting off the runway into the sunset, but, alas, I seem to attract airline snafus and seats next to squalling infants in equal measures. I won't bore you with the details of how a five-hour flight turned into 12 hours of misery, except to remind myself and you of one simple truth:

The very best flying experience can't live up to the worst the cruise industry has to offer. And the worst the airlines have to offer nowadays...
Day 9: San Diego red arrow  

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