15 day Panama Canal cruise
Getting to Miami: We flew down a day ahead of departure. We booked the cruise early and then booked rooms and airline tickets early. Celebrity then changed the port of embarkation from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. It is about 30 miles and not a long distance. Celebrity did not offer to cover the extra cost for the transfer which cost us about $60.
Embarkation: It was smooth and quick. Since the ship had been in dry dock for two weeks prior, there were no passengers getting off nor some of the other issues related to clearing immigration, etc. We got on the ship at 11:00 am.
Dining: We had main seating and were at the back of the ship at table 420. Our tablemates were great as we try to always get a round table for 8. We enjoy meeting new people and having the pleasure of dining with them for the trip. The food was respectable, but not as memorable as we had had on the Constellation just 5 months prior. Lobster night was excellent. Being on a 15 day (2 week cruise, we had hoped for two lobster nights, but only one was forthcoming). Service was acceptable, but it was difficult to understand our waiter at times due to noise in general in the dining room and at times the noise from the ship.
The Seaside Cafe was very good. Being in CC class, we had excellent room service, thus ate on our balcony most mornings. The room service food was always hot and on time. We did go to the cafe for waffles twice. For lunch we ate in the cafe every day we were on ship except one. I personally became addicted to the pasta bar with garlic and onions sautEed and added to the sauces. I would ask the servers to drain my pasta more as it seemed they hurried that process. I finally requested that they skip that step (heating the pasta a little more) it didnt change my enjoyment and the pasta was much less watery.
We enjoyed the sushi bar a few evenings. This is located at the back of the seaside cafe from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
We did not try the alternative dining as we had tried it on the Constellation and did not want to spend the extra money. In retrospect with the food in main dining being okay I wish we had tried it one evening.
Entertainment: We were a little disappointed in the entertainment. Most likely it was more our age vs. the actual entertainment. We are in our early 50s and felt that most of the performances were targeted to an older age demographic. We were some of the youngest people on the ship. The ventriloquist though was excellent as we had seen him on the Constellation in Dec 05. The bright spot for us was Tony playing guitar at the aft bar in the evening.
Services/Activities on board: Internet cafe is very expensive and was down a couple of days. We had 7 sea days, so we signed up the package minutes and from an accounting stand point, it worked very well. I do think the pricing is extremely high and would suggest as we did at a couple of ports of call, find an internet cafe where instead of paying $45.00/hour at 75 cents per minute, you can find places for $5.00/hour.
The crew was great! The crew was great! Never had a problem and in fact joked with a couple of the crew (activity staff) that they seemed to be having as much or more fun than we were. The theme parties we excellent and the crew participated and added a lot to the enjoyment.
We attended a couple of other activities during the 2 weeks, but for the most part tried to have no schedule. My motto was eat, sleep, drink.
Ports of Call: With the Panama Canal, it was a cruise to remember just because of that. It took the whole day to sail from the Caribbean to the Pacific.
Other ports were Aruba, which to me is overrated. Most of our ports were on the Pacific. Our best was Acapulco. Coming into the port is neat as the views are wonderful, then we did the Cliff Divers tour and had some of the best seats for viewing in the restaurant next to the cliff. This was a ship sponsored tour.
We did a zip line tour in Costa Rica with an individual named Charlie Soto. He met us at the pier, personally was with us the whole day and then when one of our excursion members needed some medicine (unrelated to the excursion) he help her find a pharmacy and went into the store to again help. This was on a Sunday in Puntarenas.
In Cabo San Lucas we ate at a ship recommended restaurant called the Shrimp Factory or Store. It was the best shrimp I have ever had in a restaurant. The plate is big, the shrimp are big too. Get the whole plate. I got only a ½ plate and craved more. They cooked the shrimp in saltwater and it required no sauce as needed if cooked only in plain water.
At end of cruise, we had two days in San Francisco. Blue skies and warm weather! Ate crab twice, once in Monterey and second time at Fishermans wharf and rode the trolley cars. We also helped SF celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake.
Disembarkation: We had a smooth and quick disembarkation. The biggest issue was immigration where the whole list of passengers ended up in line at the same time to go through immigration. The line went from the theatre (which is forward) aft on the starboard side all the way back to the dining rooms and then across the ship to the port side to begin heading back to the theatre where we started our trek to the dining room and then back to the theatre. The theatre was where immigration clearance took place. Once the line started to move it went pretty quick. It turned out it was a good time to see everyone again and say good bye as you tried to find the end of the line.
Conclusion: The Panama Canal trip was well worth it. It was worth it for a number of reasons: 1) We met a lot of Cruise Critic members that we had be on threads together for months 2) we had an exotic itinerary 3) We had 15 days! 4) we had a great crew/staff 5) we had great tablemates 6) we had great weather on our trip (18 days with not one day of rain or rough seas).
I would recommend the Panama Canal cruise to anyone and would recommend Celebrity as the cruise line to sail.