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14 Night Panama Canal & Central America Cruise from Miami

14 Night Panama Canal & Central America Cruise from Miami

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Itinerary

No city in the United States has evolved into as many disparate identities in so short a time as has Miami. A bit more than a hundred years ago this former Spanish settlement, located along the Miami River where it spills into Biscayne Bay (now the center of the city of Miami), attracted neither interest nor population. That's understandable since up until that point, the only way to reach Miami was by boat.

That changed in 1896, when financier Henry Flagler extended his new Florida East Coast Railroad south from its previous terminus at West Palm Beach. By the turn of the 20th century the first of Miami's real estate booms was underway, a pattern that continued unabated right up to the Great Depression. Miami was one of the few places on earth where someone could offer you a get-rich-quick deal on 10 acres of swampland, and there was a good chance that you could actually get rich on it. Many made their fortunes here and left monuments to their achievements in places such as the grand Mediterranean-style estates like Villa Vizcaya and the slew of privately developed islands along the causeways crossing Biscayne Bay.

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You're in for a big treat if you've booked a Caribbean or Panama Canal cruise with Cartagena on the itinerary, as this lovely old town and resort on Colombia's Caribbean coast is quite deservedly the country's most popular tourist destination.

There, you'll find everything a cruise passenger's heart could desire: a fascinating -- and often dark and bloody -- history embedded in ancient forts, churches and palaces; a walled town filled with exquisite 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial architecture; soft beaches; world-class snorkeling and scuba diving reefs; delightful restaurants; and enough shops to capture your interest without the place feeling like one gigantic mall.

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Costa Rica is a small country, about the size of West Virginia, but it's got massive appeal as one of the most ecologically diverse places on earth. Even though Costa Rica covers less than .03 percent of the earth's total surface, you can find nearly five percent of the planet's plant and animal species there. Its location -- between Nicaragua and Panama on the isthmus connecting North and South America, with the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east -- has enabled flora and fauna from both continents to thrive there.

Cruise passengers visiting Costa Rica's Pacific Coast will come ashore in one of two places -- Puerto Caldera, a commercial port serving the nearby seaside town of Puntarenas, and Puntarenas itself. Puntarenas is a lively town that hosts josefinos (residents of the capital city of San Jose) on holiday, as well as international tourists. The main drag, a wide walkway fronting the beach that's jam-packed with places to shop and eat, is even called Paseo de los Turistas -- loosely, "stroll of the tourists."

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Corinto is an off-the-beaten path destination typically included on Panama Canal itineraries. It features a man-made beach and a small downtown area that visitors can spend a couple of hours exploring. Boating and fishing excursions are also popular. Additionally, travelers can venture a bit further out to tour some of the local villages and reach natural beaches.

--By Shayne Thompson, Cruise Critic contributor

Puerto Quetzal -- a Guatemalan port that serves as the jumping-off point for Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the nearest town of interest, some 90 minutes away -- doesn't seem like much at first, but it can be a great option for anyone who needs a break from the hustle and bustle of the usual stops on a Panama Canal or South America itinerary.

Antigua is a lovely Spanish colonial city, easily walkable and quite charming. There are several churches to peek into, museums to browse, cafes to grab a bite at, and, if you're there in late winter you'll catch the gorgeous jacarandas in bloom. If you choose to stay in port instead of taking the long ride to Antigua, prepare for a slow-paced and pleasant day of shopping for colorful, reasonably priced trinkets; there's not much else to do.

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Acapulco may not be the Hollywood celebrity magnet it once was, but with its glorious beaches, jumping main drag and pulsating night life, this holiday resort still packs a punch. If the city has an iconic signature, it's the La Quebrada cliff divers, who thrill onlookers today just as they did decades ago when jetsetters like Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Rita Hayworth and David Niven helped put Acapulco on the map.

With a population of 1.6 million people, Acapulco has been relentlessly developed, and there is little hint of its early origins. Longtime visitors may grumble that the area has lost its charm, but with its lovely, natural setting, rising from the blue bay up into the Sierra Madre mountains that frame it, Acapulco remains an undeniable scene-stealer.

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Cabo San Lucas is an anchor port for all cruises sailing on Mexico's Riviera and Sea of Cortez itineraries, but passengers are a small minority of the tourists who flock there. The heavily Americanized party town serves as one of the most popular beach escapes for Californians and other West Coasters who come here to let loose (spring break festivities are intense and not a proposition for the faint of heart). One of Cabo's major attractions is Cabo Wabo, a cantina owned by rocker Sammy Hagar. Rocks of a different sort -- El Arco, with its jagged points protruding from the Sea of Cortez, make more impressive photos.

Yet for those passing on the beer-pong tournaments and temporary tattoos, Cabo has a lot to offer. Located at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas -- together with its more elegant and much quieter sister town of San Jose del Cabo -- is an ideal spot for adventure-oriented pursuits. If conditions are right, the clear waters make for great snorkeling kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, parasailing, sailing and jet skiing. The Sea of Cortez is among the biologically richest areas in the world, with pods of whales that winter offshore; if you're here in season (late December through late March), a whale-watching trip is a must.

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  • Day 14

The City of Los Angeles has a lot more going for it than Woody Allen leads us to believe. Stretching along the Pacific from Malibu to Long Beach, the region offers plenty to see and do in what can only be called a sun-kissed blend of adventure, culture and whimsy. It all melds stylishly with an anything-goes attitude, and whether you're kicking back on one of its fabled beaches, grabbing a ride at a world-class amusement park, plunging into glittery shops for the latest Oscar-worthy fashions (you need to practice a regally bored look to fit in better), dining at Tinsel Town hot spots or exploring inspiring world-class museums -- you're in for a magic-carpet ride like no other. And in a city dominated by "show business" -- prepare for a ride that comes with a good deal of self-indulgent dazzle anytime of day, be it a Malibu glamour tan while nonchalantly reading Variety, catching the Pussycat Dolls at the Viper Club on Sunset Boulevard or browsing breathtaking art works at the Getty.

For those who never watch TV or go to the movies, we should tell you that L.A. is a sprawling metropolis (with an atypically high percentage of beautiful people) with no "center" -- which means you'll wind your way through various neighborhoods and independently incorporated communities, keeping your eyes peeled for celebs and clusters of paparazzi everywhere. (Did you know that the city's Zagat restaurant guide actually has a "stargazing" category?) And still under the heading of Geography 101, try to think in terms of the major "areas" like Santa Monica and Malibu, the San Fernando Valley (the "valley" to locals), the Westside and Beverly Hills, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Downtown and Pasadena.

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Norwegian Star

Cruise Critic Editor Rating:
4.0
1,987 reviews
Why Choose Norwegian Star?

Pro

Refurbs have kept original Freestyle ship modern.

Con

Reservations necessary to get the venue you want.

Bottom Line

Star provides some of Norwegian's most popular features, on a smaller ship.


Cruise Reviews

2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
Good value . There are no louges in the front of the ship for viewing and relaxing . The information for latitude members very poor. We had a package for three specialty restaurants The problem was nothing was available until after ... Read More
Good value . There are no louges in the front of the ship for viewing and relaxing . The information for latitude members very poor. We had a package for three specialty restaurants The problem was nothing was available until after 930 in the evening. We also had a beverage package There were no problems with this . The weight room in the exercise room what is well-equipped very nice easy to use what is well-equipped very nice easy to use. We also enjoy walking track It was well laid out easy for walkers and runners It was A lot of room for sun and relaxing around the pool Entertainment for the shows was excellent. The atrium area is laid out nicely There was also entertainment in that area. The sea was calm so we had a smooth ride This was a Mexican Riviera cruise the ports were well accessible except for, cobble where we had to tender. We always make it a point to have a great Time and we do Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2017
We chose Norwegian Cruise lines at the suggestion of our travel agent. We were looking for a new years cruise that would not require too much traveling and where there would be good weather. All in all, my wife and I give the trip an ... Read More
We chose Norwegian Cruise lines at the suggestion of our travel agent. We were looking for a new years cruise that would not require too much traveling and where there would be good weather. All in all, my wife and I give the trip an average rating. The service and entertainment (shows) were very good and the cabin and activities were decent. Our main complaints are with the food and internet service. Other than a few meals in the main dining rooms, the food was not of the best quality, lacked taste and much of it was very salty. Because I am self employed, it is necessary to have reliable internet access briefly each day. The internet access throughout the boat was terrible. It was slower than dial-up, only worked intermittently, and was very frustrating to use. I paid an extra fee for 250 minutes of internet that was basically worthless and a waste of money. Also, the NCL (phone) app that we paid extra for, was also useless for most of the trip. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2017
Wanted to sail on Norwegian because of easy access in L.A. Ca, no need to fly into port. Wish I would have read the reviews before booking. The plus side of this Ship is, it's very clean, all restrooms, dining areas, and other places ... Read More
Wanted to sail on Norwegian because of easy access in L.A. Ca, no need to fly into port. Wish I would have read the reviews before booking. The plus side of this Ship is, it's very clean, all restrooms, dining areas, and other places (Spa, pool etc) were always kept clean. My Balcony Room was very clean and the Stateroom Steward did an excellent job. The Specialty Dining Restaurants were good, nothing spectacular, (Le Bistro, Cagney's and Teppanyaki)servings at Teppanyaki and Le Bistro were small. They had a craft class for 3 of the 7 days at sea. The craft class was nice, each a different project. The entertainment for the nightly evenings was good. This Ship is mainly kid/family oriented, not for single older adults. On the negative side, I paid for 3 days at the spa for 1 hour massage each day, thinking that I could use the spa and sauna before and after the massage. Nope!, Usually when I sail on other cruise lines, the use of the spa is included when booked for services at the spa. This ship charges an additional fee ($68) each day for use of spa and sauna. Also, I paid for bottled water on board as they would not allow guest to bring in their own bottled water. On embarkation everything went smooth, but on return, disembarkation was disorganized. They did not call the color of tags in the order it was listed. I will never sail this cruise line again. Read Less
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