6 Colon (Cristobal) Romantic Cruise Reviews

I love Windstar’s small-boat (148 passengers) approach to cruising, but I found this particular boat, their flagship, to be lacking and I was also dismayed by several avoidable missteps by the ship’s management. The destinations ... Read More
I love Windstar’s small-boat (148 passengers) approach to cruising, but I found this particular boat, their flagship, to be lacking and I was also dismayed by several avoidable missteps by the ship’s management. The destinations are a wonderful experience. The Panama Canal, Panama City and Costa Rica in January are absolutely must-do experiences. The destinations are 5+. Windstar (really Xanterra, the same folks who service many of the U.S National Parks), on the other hand, was disappointingly lacking in some ways that compromised an otherwise fabulous cruising experience. The ship Wind Star (the initial ship in their fleet) was commissioned in 1987 and is showing a lot of age. I find most complainers to be boorish, and, all-in-all I want to like Wind Star for the many positives they bring to a cruise; however, it seemed like this particular ship brought with it a number of issues due to age and lack of attention at the management level. Throughout much of the cruise, the deck spa was broken and leaky, requiring days of repair work. It appeared to be working toward the end, but it continued to make a loud ghastly belching noise every minute or so. The cabins are small and manageable, but even the premium cabins have only two dirty portholes for an outside view. Each cabin has its own thermostat, but they don’t work. Our first night on board, our cabin (221) was very stuffy. We prefer about 20 Celsius, but when I adjusted the thermostat there was no response, just the same weak movement of slightly cool air through an overhead vent. I then moved the thermostat down as far as it would go and no response. I reported the problem to the onboard reception desk where I was promised that someone would come by and check out the problem. No one ever arrived. Finally, once the ship began to move, the room cooled slowly to a reasonably tolerable temperature, but, the thermostat was never inspect and we had no in-room temperature control for the entire cruise. We witnessed at least three water leakages within the first week of our voyage, one of which flooded a cabin and out into the hall. Another occurred in our own cabin (221). The toilet wouldn’t stop running at 11:00 p.m. and began flooding the bathroom. No one answered when we tried to phone for help, so, my wife kept flushing the stool while I went out and found help. Once found, both crew members were very attentive and repaired the problem via a hallway access panel, allowing us to go back to bed and sleep. Finally, Cabin 221 is midship upper deck and I selected it months in advance. It is directly beneath the entrance to the main dining room, which was no problem except one night at 10:00 p.m. when the management directed staff to strip the wooden floor of the dining room entrance and wax it. I was in bed trying to sleep, and I assumed the movement of furniture and associated noises directly overhead were temporary and would subside, but after an hour, I decided to go upstairs to investigate and found out what was going on. I apologized, I knew the workers had a job to do but I told them that the noise from their work was keeping us awake. They apologized and said they would tell their boss. Apparently, they did, and the noise stopped, only to wake me up when it restarted at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. Most disappointing was the fact that the original itinerary called for a day of snorkeling on an island just off the Panama coast. This was cancelled a couple of months before our sailing date. When I phoned about this, I was assured that Windstar would find a suitable and equal substitute. However, the day that we boarded, we were told the alternate landing site had not worked out, and we would be staying in the Panama City port of Balboa a second day. Just about every passenger had arrived in Panama City for the trip and many had already seen Panama City prior to the cruise, so adding a second cruise day in Panama City WITHOUT any excursion was a true breach of contract on behalf of Windstar. The weather was beautiful and the sailing conditions excellent, but Windstar had not done its due diligence over the months prior, leaving their guests to fend for themselves during Day 2 in Panama City. What was the compensation offered by Windstar? An open bar one evening. My wife and I don’t drink. Thanks very much. To further compound Windstar’s negligence, they offered no suggestions of how their passengers might spend the extra day, despite the fact that a wonderful Smithsonian wildlife refuge and a fantastic Frank Gehry-designed Bio Museum were both within walking distance of the port. We did both and ended up having a day well-spent, but no thanks to Windstar! Some excursion descriptions appeared to be intentionally misleading. For example, the descriptions for both Corcovado and Carara National Parks led guests to anticipate hikes through trails plentiful with some of the most diverse fauna (birds, mammal, reptiles, etc.) in the world, when, in fact, Windstar personnel know full well that the chances of such sightings are very low. I understand the disclaimers not guaranteeing sightings, but the descriptions are written to infer that no sightings are the exception, not the rule. The diverse wildlife does exist within these two parks, but primarily in the interior, not as commonly along the perimeter trails that are open to the public, and certainly not at mid-day! Prime time for wildlife sightings in these parks is within 1-2 hours of sunrise or sunset (5:45 am. and 5:10 pm. in January. When were we present in the park? 9:45 am – noon. The absolute worst times to see wildlife, and we indeed SAW NOTHING except for a couple of lizards at Carara. We did see a Macaw at both Corcovado and Carara, and in both cases the bird was too far away to see well even with a sighting scope. During the dry season, the hours of operation for Costa Rican national parks are 7 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., so, even though these hours prevent Windstar from having guests at the parks during prime sighting times, to fulfill the expectations Windstar creates with its customers, their excursions should be at the parks at 7:00 a.m. ready to go. Windstar’s current approach is intentionally deceptive and misleading and certainly not worthy of a company that wants to be regarded as a step above their competition. Old ship needing work, a last-minute downgrade to the itinerary and a failure to provide useful information to their customers are all marks of a cruise company with some serious management flaws. On the good side: Windstar offers small boat sailing catered to older customers. Their waitstaff and room attendants are first class. Of course, staff members are standard cruise personnel comprised of young people from economically-deprived countries who are worked to the bone, but they each work as hard as they can to provide the highest quality personalized service possible. I have now sailed Windstar twice. Will I cruise with them again? Quite possible, but I would not want to return the ship Wind Star, and, if I return, it will be with a jaundiced eye and less loyalty than I felt when we agreed to cruise the second time following a very pleasant initial cruise in the Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We chose Ponant for this trip because we were looking for a more intimate cruise experience. We have been on large cruise ships (3000+ passengers) and felt it was time for a more refined trip. One of the best things about being on a ... Read More
We chose Ponant for this trip because we were looking for a more intimate cruise experience. We have been on large cruise ships (3000+ passengers) and felt it was time for a more refined trip. One of the best things about being on a smaller ship is that the embarkation and disemarkation process. All of the crew members were courteous and professional. Also, there was rarely ever a line. Once we landed at our port or destination, getting off the ship to begin enjoying the tours was a breeze. I must admit that we were a little skeptical about having the shore excursions included in the cost of the cruise. We wondered what the quality of the excursions would be. But, we were not disappointed. Every excursion we joined was very informative and enjoyable. In addition, our days on the uninhabited Caribbean Islands were the best! Being able to take the zodiac boats in for a morning of snorkeling along the coral reefs of the atolls was a once in a lifetime experience. Our cabin was lovely, and very well appointed. Having a balcony where we could enjoy the views and fresh sea air was a great feature. Of course, everything we needed was provided by the stewards, it was as though there were fairies on the ship tending to our every need. Every meal we enjoyed on the ship was perfect. The variety of food, and accommodations for special dietary needs was attended to very well. We were able to enjoy dinner at the captain's table as well. It was nice to see the captain at every dinner, and feel that he was approachable and willing to mingle with the guests. The entertainment and activities on the boat during days at sea and each evening were very enjoyable. We enjoyed everything from educational lectures about our ports of call to spectacular shows each evening from with the on board performers as well as specialty shows from some of our ports. There was never a lack of good entertainment. Overall, it was a wonderful adventure we would recommend to everyone looking for a luxury vacation experience. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We chose this cruise because it left from Colon Panama where and we were visiting friends in Panama. The itinerary was original too. Colon, Cartagena, Colombia, and the ABC islands. As I am learning Spanish, this cruise was a great ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it left from Colon Panama where and we were visiting friends in Panama. The itinerary was original too. Colon, Cartagena, Colombia, and the ABC islands. As I am learning Spanish, this cruise was a great language immersion experience for me too. The fact that alcoholic drinks were included in the already low price was also a positive. However, the service was not as good as on other cruises, the restaurants staff in general do not show any enthusiasm, and seem a bit bored. On the first evening dinner, we had a couple of waiters that were simply difficult to deal with. We requested a change and had a great pair of friendly waiters for the rest of the cruise. In the buffet, cleanliness seems to be a problem and the table towels appear to be reused without any wash, with visible stains, and a smell that does not resemble that of a freshly cleaned towel. As opposed to the formal dining restaurant where all is up to standard or better. The cabin, an inside one, is surprisingly larger than many other cruise ships, with plenty of storage space. When reported, an issues are quickly resolved. So in summary, this a good cruise ship and line but only if you are not to picky about Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
This was our first time on a cruise. We had never really considered taking one before but in looking for our "winter" break we thought that a trip through the Canal and up along the Costa Rican coast sounded like a fun ... Read More
This was our first time on a cruise. We had never really considered taking one before but in looking for our "winter" break we thought that a trip through the Canal and up along the Costa Rican coast sounded like a fun adventure. We didn't have particularly high expectations (nor particularly low) but were somewhat ambivalent but figured - you have to try everything once. Well we were really incredibly surprised at how wonderful the experience was. Just about everything was beyond our expectations. The cruise is amazing - a special shout out to Noel, Kennedy and Apple who really made our trip wonderful and easy. The women who worked in the spa were also amazing. The food and service really were the highlights. We enjoyed the excursions and highly recommend the Sierpe river outing. Probably the biggest let down was that the water sports wasn't available the last two afternoons of the cruise. At a minimum a bit more communication on this front for planning purposes would have been helpful The only other "complaint" we have is that it is difficult to dry out swimming suits and the like - it would be good if the ship could provide some of the "spin" ringers for clothing/suits that you sometimes find at gyms. One comment of note, while we are in our mid 50s/early 60s we were on the young side for this cruise. I think the bulk of the passengers were mid 60s to 80s - this wasn't an issue for us but something to keep in mind. Finally, it may be worth splurging for the balcony - we didn't but I think being able to open the windows would have been nice. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Transportation from/to hotels and to/from ship timely and well organized. The Executive Inn is across the street from and $125 less per night than the official cruise hotel in Panama City. Lavish breakfast buffet can be supplemented ... Read More
Transportation from/to hotels and to/from ship timely and well organized. The Executive Inn is across the street from and $125 less per night than the official cruise hotel in Panama City. Lavish breakfast buffet can be supplemented from daily menu (try the French toast stuffed with Ricotta and pour on the maple syrup). Dinners will satisfy gourmet and gourmand alike. And one can eat at a different table every time (or not). One day featured a private beach, deck chairs (which had to be kept moving because of the tide), snorkel equipment, kayaks, and a lavish buffet. Note that the roads south of Manual Antonio in are almost impassable and a ship is the only way to see the South of Costa Rica. We took only two excursions--horse back riding on the beach and a boat tour of the mangroves, both of which we recommend. The ship's personnel seemed to lack knowledge of the timing of the excursions--so that a couple of our acquaintance did without breakfast to sit and wait for an hour in the lounge before going ashore in a Zodiac with limited seating. Then did without lunch because they were bumped from a returning Zodiac and had an afternoon excursion. Great crowd--older, friendly, well-travelled, not a drunk among them. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
This was our 12th cruise with RCCL; our second as diamond members.  We were looking at various cruise itineraries a couple of months ago with friends and this one was a "late bloomer"...not one of our initial choices.  As fate ... Read More
This was our 12th cruise with RCCL; our second as diamond members.  We were looking at various cruise itineraries a couple of months ago with friends and this one was a "late bloomer"...not one of our initial choices.  As fate would have, this one worked out the best, and it ended up being just the two of us.  We could not have asked for a better cruise experience!We traveled from Tulsa, OK (TUL) to MIA on American Airlines Saturday afternoon in order to catch a few stone crab claws at the Catch of the Day restaurant.  We had also booked the MIA - PTY transfer through RCCL and our Miami Air charter flight departed early Sunday morning.  The flight was very nice (they even served breakfast!) but it became apparent that the cruise was going to be "top-heavy" with diamond and diamond plus members.  This led to a decision to change our dining room table to a small "Just for 2", which made the cruise even more special, as will be seen.  The arrival in PTY was uneventful...NOT!  Absolute chaos was an understatement!  We had already filled out two forms on the airplane, and ended up filling out at least two others.  Some of us were shuttled into a holding area to await a bus, then were almost forgotten and told to board immediately.  Our bags (including our carry-on) were literally torn from our hands and tossed into one bus, while we were told to board yet another.  It was an adventure that had to be experienced to be believed!  Somehow, we successfully navigated the 60 miles of well-littered countryside and made it to Colon.  After a bit of a tussle at the pier we found an angel in a Royal Caribbean uniform who spoke English, which enabled us to get our bags retrieved and finally tagged to our cabin.  We walked through to the doors into the embarkation hall, took a deep breath, and started our vacation!At our first stop in Puerto Limon we were too tired (and didn't feel like another bus ride) so we passed on our plans to go white water rafting.  We strolled around the town, picked up a few souvenirs, and headed back to the ship.  Our decision to go with the small table worked out incredibly well, as our waiter ended up with only two couples at the main dinner seating...us!  We got to know Gonzalo and Efrain pretty well, and enjoyed the "personalized" service.  They were the best wait staff we've ever had in all our cruises.  "Crazy Gonzo" from Chile and his knowledge of Carmeniere wine was a lot of fun.  We hope he'll one day get his bowl of onion soup from Michael Jackson.  Hasta la Vista!Our second stop in Cartagena, Colombia was an absolute gem!  We took one of the city tours and it was well worth it.  The Old City was both clean and beautiful!  Our Tour Guide, Edgar, was knowledgeable and versatile, and made the excursion very interesting.  His talk in the cathedral of his mission to serve others was inspiring and blessed.  The Palace of the Inquisition was truly sobering, and the bargaining at the shops was a lot of fun.  Edgar's final words as we returned to the pier was that he hoped that the "mental picture" we all had of Cartagena of 10 - 20 years ago had been changed for the better.  It was indeed, and we'll be back.Santa Marta, Colombia was a small port surrounded by towering mountains.  Picturesque and beautiful!  We took the Irotama Resort Break and ended up in one of the prettiest swimming pools we've ever been in.  We wandered around, sunburned, and bargained for some souvenirs.  The lunch was so-so, and the language barrier was a challenge (even with the Tour Guide), but the weather was perfect.  It was rumored that Santa Marta will not be on the itinerary for next season so we were glad we got to see it.  After returning to the ship, the Diamond sail-away party on the forward deck was a nice touch.Oranjestad, Aruba was the final stop, and we again chose to wander around the town for some last-minute gifts.  After trying a couple of local beers at Senor Frog's we felt rested enough to walk the remaining distance to the ship.  The last two days were at sea, which capped off the cruise with some extreme relaxation.  We both visited the spa...myself for a massage, while my wife tried the acupuncture treatment for some lower back pain. Highly recommended!  The "Tango Buenos Aires" show was also very good.  The Crown and Anchor events were thoughtful and fun.  What ultimately "made" this cruise for us was the crew.  Never on any of our previous cruises had we experienced such friendly crowd!  At one point, I jokingly told the Hotel Director, Michael, that I had never spent so much time speaking with a ship's officer before.  I talked to him at least twice after that.  All of the crew we met seemed to go out of their way to greet us or be of assistance.  Special kudos to Alejandra (the Loyalty Ambassador), Winston (our Room Steward), and Diego (for putting up with the people in the Concierge Lounge).  Thank you, crew of Enchantment of the Seas, for such a great time!   Read Less
Sail Date April 2009

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