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Preface: We've cruised on many cruise ships, seen many places, however, we have never taken a cruise ship through the Panama Canal. We chose this 14-day itinerary because it finished up in our home town of San Diego. This was a very relaxing, enjoyable cruise and we hope to do this itinerary again. We began our trip on Friday by traveling from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale on SouthWest Airlines. We love SouthWest Air and traveling into Ft. Lauderdale was a plus, since we didn't have the hectic traffic that can be experienced at the Miami International Airport. It is only a 20 minute drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. We rented a car in Ft. Lauderdale since we were visiting relatives in Miami before our Sunday embarkation. We booked the InterContinental Hotel in Miami near Bayside Marketplace with points we had accumulated over the years, and enjoyed this hotel very much. We had a suite on the 29th floor which overlooked the cruise port. It was also a plus to be able to drop off our Hertz car at the kiosk in the lobby of the hotel, rather than having to return it to Hertz in the City of Miami (just a few short blocks from the hotel). We had a wonderful Cruise Critic group dinner at Bubba Gumps at the Bayside Marketplace on Saturday evening. Great food, good friends, and a perfect way to start off our journey through the Panama Canal! Embarkation: Embarkation was a piece of cake! We are Diamond members and arrived at the cruise port at 10:30 AM and were amazed to find that check-in was followed up by boarding immediately at 11:00 AM! This was a fantastic start to the cruise. Cabin: We prefer to cruise in AFT cabins and this was no exception. We originally booked 9256, but had some friends that had never cruised in the AFT cabins, so we booked 9258 and asked them to book 9256. We were glad that we had the AFT cabins on this itinerary, since the majority of the transit through the canal was seen from our cabin balcony. Our Cabin Attendant, Fannie, was a gem! We simply cannot say enough about her. She made the "BEST" towel animals we have ever seen! She was gracious and always had a smile on her face. Itinerary: This itinerary is a good one if you LOVE sea days. There are 7 sea days and 7 "ports", providing a lot of time to relax and lots to see. Aruba: Aruba is a fun port! The main interest here is their beautiful beaches and bars. We booked the "Jolly Pirates" excursion on our own, since it was not offered by RCCL. We read lots of good things about it on CC, and were very glad we booked this tour! It was a very nice way to snorkel, swim, and see some of the coastline of Aruba. The tour ended around 1:30 PM and we headed back to the ship to take showers, get dressed, and head out for the Kookookonuku Pub and Bar Crawl provided by RCCL Excursions. We didn't do the "dinner" crawl, but rather the later version. We were glad we did. The dinner version was longer and started earlier. We had the opportunity to eat dinner onboard in the Windjammer before heading out for the evening which was a plus in our book. Panama Canal Cruising: The reason we booked this cruise was to see the workings of the Panama Canal. We were definitely given a great show, with some great weather. It is very hot when you transit the canal (100 degrees is not uncommon). We got up very early (5:30 am) and went to the bow (heliport) of the ship to watch the ship enter the locks. I highly suggest watching the beginning from the bow (East to West itinerary) since it really is the best view. After transiting the first set of locks, we went up to the Windjammer and ate some breakfast. The rest of the day was spent transiting the remaining two locks and then stopping in Fuerte Amador for those folks who wished to tender to Panama City and take tours. We chose to stay onboard and relax since the intense heat really made us very lethargic and tired. Costa Rica: We were originally scheduled to port in Puntarenas. Although many of the cruisers were never given the port change information, some very observant CC members noticed that the RCCL website had changed our itinerary to "tender" in Puerto Caldera. We had a private tour with Mauricio (see "Ports" on CC) and it was just lucky that we noticed the change of itinerary. It seems that RCCL gives advantage to Celebrity when porting, since the Celebrity ship was docked in Puntarenas along with the Norwegian Sun. We chose to zipline in Mahogany Park and then have a traditional Costa Rican lunch, see the alligators and do some shopping. We loved Costa Rica (although very hot temperatures there)! This is one place I would love to visit again. Check out the "feather paintings" while you are there. The art is amazing. Huatulco, Mexico: This is a very interesting port. The area is very young for a Mexican port, and the community is trying to build itself up around some lovely beaches and resorts. We took the RCCL Swim and Sail and enjoyed this tour very much. The water can be very rough in Huatulco, so be careful if you book water excursions. Some of the group we were with spent their time at a private beach and enjoyed the day very much. Although you can go to the beach right from the cruise ship port, a short cab ride will bring you to some very pristine, unspoiled beaches very close by the ship. Acapulco: We booked a private tour in Acapulco. This was our first time in Acapulco and certainly wouldn't make it a priority to go back. We booked our tour with "Oscar" through the CC "Ports" board. Our first stop was the San Diego Fort which is directly across from where the cruise ship ports. You can easily do this via taxi! Our next destination was to take a tour through the hills of "old Acapulco". It is a very depressed area, although very interesting. We saw some of the old hotels and had a lovely stop at the Hotel that Johnny Weismuller made famous. We then headed over to the "Cliff Divers" and waited for about 30 minutes until the show began. Our next stop was up to Senor Frogs for lunch and then over to the "new" side of Acapulco where all of the Resort hotels are located. My suggestions: visit the San Diego Fort and the Cliff Divers. Driving is very dangerous in Acapulco and I would definitely advise NOT renting a car! Cabo San Lucas: We really enjoyed this port and were pleasantly surprised at how grown up and nice this area has become. We visited Cabo in 1987 and couldn't believe all of the changes! We went into the main part of town, did some shopping, visited the "factory tequila store" and then headed over to Cabo Wabo for some good times with cruise folks before returning to the ship. San Diego: This is my home town and certainly a great place to visit with lots to see and do. Dining Room: Our Dining Room table was terrific. We had previously, through the use of the "Roll Call" thread for our sailing on CC, put together a group of us to dine together on this trip. We enjoyed the good company and friendship very much. Our Waiter, Emanuelle and our Assistant Waiter, Maria, were top drawer! We thought the service and food in the Dining Room was Good to Excellent. Entertainment: Entertainment on the ship was hit and miss. We tried to attend all of the evening shows. We walked out on the "John Davidson" show. His antics and mocking of old age were enough for us. The highlights were the shows presented by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. Kudos to all of those folks for a job well done! Mystery Dinner (Portofinos): This was something that has never been offered on any of our other cruises and we decided to see what it was all about. We booked it the first thing after embarkation. We had a great time. The dinner started out in the Colony Club with appetizers and drinks, and then moved into the Portofinos Restaurant onboard where the "players" were seated with the guests. At the end of the evening, the murderer was revealed and prizes were given to those who guessed the murderer correctly. The dinner is an abbreviated menu from Portofinos and garlic was abundant! If you have never done this before, I highly suggest it! The cost was around $49.00 per person and was a very good way to enjoy an evening of fun, food and entertainment. Disembarkation: There was no "priority disembarkation". Platinum and Diamond members were given a separate area to wait for their turn to leave the ship. RCCL has decided to now allow those with flights to leave first due to security reasons and lines at the airports. If I had a flight out that day, I would have been very happy with the process. Since I live in San Diego, our turn to leave did not occur until 10:00 AM.

Radiance of the Seas - Central America/Panama Canal

Radiance of the Seas Cruise Review by Tinkerme1

Trip Details
Preface: We've cruised on many cruise ships, seen many places, however, we have never taken a cruise ship through the Panama Canal. We chose this 14-day itinerary because it finished up in our home town of San Diego. This was a very relaxing, enjoyable cruise and we hope to do this itinerary again.
We began our trip on Friday by traveling from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale on SouthWest Airlines. We love SouthWest Air and traveling into Ft. Lauderdale was a plus, since we didn't have the hectic traffic that can be experienced at the Miami International Airport. It is only a 20 minute drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. We rented a car in Ft. Lauderdale since we were visiting relatives in Miami before our Sunday embarkation.
We booked the InterContinental Hotel in Miami near Bayside Marketplace with points we had accumulated over the years, and enjoyed this hotel very much. We had a suite on the 29th floor which overlooked the cruise port. It was also a plus to be able to drop off our Hertz car at the kiosk in the lobby of the hotel, rather than having to return it to Hertz in the City of Miami (just a few short blocks from the hotel).
We had a wonderful Cruise Critic group dinner at Bubba Gumps at the Bayside Marketplace on Saturday evening. Great food, good friends, and a perfect way to start off our journey through the Panama Canal!
Embarkation: Embarkation was a piece of cake! We are Diamond members and arrived at the cruise port at 10:30 AM and were amazed to find that check-in was followed up by boarding immediately at 11:00 AM! This was a fantastic start to the cruise.
Cabin: We prefer to cruise in AFT cabins and this was no exception. We originally booked 9256, but had some friends that had never cruised in the AFT cabins, so we booked 9258 and asked them to book 9256. We were glad that we had the AFT cabins on this itinerary, since the majority of the transit through the canal was seen from our cabin balcony. Our Cabin Attendant, Fannie, was a gem! We simply cannot say enough about her. She made the "BEST" towel animals we have ever seen! She was gracious and always had a smile on her face.
Itinerary: This itinerary is a good one if you LOVE sea days. There are 7 sea days and 7 "ports", providing a lot of time to relax and lots to see.
Aruba: Aruba is a fun port! The main interest here is their beautiful beaches and bars. We booked the "Jolly Pirates" excursion on our own, since it was not offered by RCCL. We read lots of good things about it on CC, and were very glad we booked this tour! It was a very nice way to snorkel, swim, and see some of the coastline of Aruba. The tour ended around 1:30 PM and we headed back to the ship to take showers, get dressed, and head out for the Kookookonuku Pub and Bar Crawl provided by RCCL Excursions. We didn't do the "dinner" crawl, but rather the later version. We were glad we did. The dinner version was longer and started earlier. We had the opportunity to eat dinner onboard in the Windjammer before heading out for the evening which was a plus in our book.
Panama Canal Cruising: The reason we booked this cruise was to see the workings of the Panama Canal. We were definitely given a great show, with some great weather. It is very hot when you transit the canal (100 degrees is not uncommon). We got up very early (5:30 am) and went to the bow (heliport) of the ship to watch the ship enter the locks. I highly suggest watching the beginning from the bow (East to West itinerary) since it really is the best view. After transiting the first set of locks, we went up to the Windjammer and ate some breakfast. The rest of the day was spent transiting the remaining two locks and then stopping in Fuerte Amador for those folks who wished to tender to Panama City and take tours. We chose to stay onboard and relax since the intense heat really made us very lethargic and tired.
Costa Rica: We were originally scheduled to port in Puntarenas. Although many of the cruisers were never given the port change information, some very observant CC members noticed that the RCCL website had changed our itinerary to "tender" in Puerto Caldera. We had a private tour with Mauricio (see "Ports" on CC) and it was just lucky that we noticed the change of itinerary. It seems that RCCL gives advantage to Celebrity when porting, since the Celebrity ship was docked in Puntarenas along with the Norwegian Sun.
We chose to zipline in Mahogany Park and then have a traditional Costa Rican lunch, see the alligators and do some shopping. We loved Costa Rica (although very hot temperatures there)! This is one place I would love to visit again. Check out the "feather paintings" while you are there. The art is amazing.
Huatulco, Mexico: This is a very interesting port. The area is very young for a Mexican port, and the community is trying to build itself up around some lovely beaches and resorts. We took the RCCL Swim and Sail and enjoyed this tour very much. The water can be very rough in Huatulco, so be careful if you book water excursions. Some of the group we were with spent their time at a private beach and enjoyed the day very much. Although you can go to the beach right from the cruise ship port, a short cab ride will bring you to some very pristine, unspoiled beaches very close by the ship.
Acapulco: We booked a private tour in Acapulco. This was our first time in Acapulco and certainly wouldn't make it a priority to go back. We booked our tour with "Oscar" through the CC "Ports" board. Our first stop was the San Diego Fort which is directly across from where the cruise ship ports. You can easily do this via taxi! Our next destination was to take a tour through the hills of "old Acapulco". It is a very depressed area, although very interesting. We saw some of the old hotels and had a lovely stop at the Hotel that Johnny Weismuller made famous. We then headed over to the "Cliff Divers" and waited for about 30 minutes until the show began. Our next stop was up to Senor Frogs for lunch and then over to the "new" side of Acapulco where all of the Resort hotels are located. My suggestions: visit the San Diego Fort and the Cliff Divers. Driving is very dangerous in Acapulco and I would definitely advise NOT renting a car!
Cabo San Lucas: We really enjoyed this port and were pleasantly surprised at how grown up and nice this area has become. We visited Cabo in 1987 and couldn't believe all of the changes! We went into the main part of town, did some shopping, visited the "factory tequila store" and then headed over to Cabo Wabo for some good times with cruise folks before returning to the ship.
San Diego: This is my home town and certainly a great place to visit with lots to see and do.
Dining Room: Our Dining Room table was terrific. We had previously, through the use of the "Roll Call" thread for our sailing on CC, put together a group of us to dine together on this trip. We enjoyed the good company and friendship very much. Our Waiter, Emanuelle and our Assistant Waiter, Maria, were top drawer! We thought the service and food in the Dining Room was Good to Excellent.
Entertainment: Entertainment on the ship was hit and miss. We tried to attend all of the evening shows. We walked out on the "John Davidson" show. His antics and mocking of old age were enough for us.
The highlights were the shows presented by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. Kudos to all of those folks for a job well done!
Mystery Dinner (Portofinos): This was something that has never been offered on any of our other cruises and we decided to see what it was all about. We booked it the first thing after embarkation. We had a great time. The dinner started out in the Colony Club with appetizers and drinks, and then moved into the Portofinos Restaurant onboard where the "players" were seated with the guests. At the end of the evening, the murderer was revealed and prizes were given to those who guessed the murderer correctly. The dinner is an abbreviated menu from Portofinos and garlic was abundant! If you have never done this before, I highly suggest it! The cost was around $49.00 per person and was a very good way to enjoy an evening of fun, food and entertainment.
Disembarkation: There was no "priority disembarkation". Platinum and Diamond members were given a separate area to wait for their turn to leave the ship. RCCL has decided to now allow those with flights to leave first due to security reasons and lines at the airports. If I had a flight out that day, I would have been very happy with the process. Since I live in San Diego, our turn to leave did not occur until 10:00 AM.
Tinkerme1’s Full Rating Summary
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