I chose this cruise as I've always wanted to go to the Panama Canal. I especially liked that it left from my home port. And, it was very close to a land mark birthday for me.
Embarkation went well for one of my cabin mates and myself. My friend needs a walker so we were able to get through the lines quickly. The 3rd person in our room found the embarkation to go well too.
Dining was wonderful. The food was great and there was a lot of variety on the menus. I liked how the selections reflected where we were-Mexican food while in that are and Caribbean food when we were in that area, One complaint was that certain items hadn't had enough purchased to last for a 3 week cruise. Wine was one of those things. My mom had purchased a specific wine package ahead of time as it was the only way to get her favorite wine. It came with 5 bottles of wine. By the time she was ready for her 4th bottle not only was she unable to get the 1 wine she wanted but 4 included in the package were also out. We had a super wine steward many nights. Another thing that ran out were the cordial glasses that went with a nightly liquor drink. By the last week of the cruise they'd run out of 2 of the designs-the only 2 I didn't have. Yet at the last deck sale there were boxes of all the glasses. Skim milk also ran out in the Lido at least several days before the end of the cruise.
One of the biggest disappointments and frustrations of our cruise was the size of our cabin. We were in a triple veranda cabin. The room was so small. We had expected to have at least the same amount of room in this cabin as we'd had on smaller ships given that this was the 2nd largest HAL ship. There was just a foot between the 2 twin beds and when the hide a bed was out there was only 6 inches. In order to get to our balcony we had to slide along the bed in one direction only to get by. Getting into the fridge at night was nearly impossible. We did have wonderful room stewards. We did well for 3 weeks in such close quarters. When my mom inquired she was told all triples on that ship were the same size.
San Francisco: Nice stop. One passenger in our cabin went on a city hop on hop off bus tour and enjoyed that. The other 2 of us went to Pier 39. That was fun. It was nice to be able to walk along the pier. We were too tired to walk all the way to Ghiardellis. I liked having access to the bow on deck 5 to watch us leave port and sail under the Golden Gate bridge.
My mother and friend got off as they like Tenders. It was quite rough so I stayed on board. They didn't find much of any interest on shore. We did see porpoises jumping in front of us as we approached the Island.
San Diego: Again, my friend did a hop on hop off shore based tour and enjoyed that. My mother and I went on the trolley and went shopping. We've been to San Diego before so weren't really interested in any of the ship based tours.
Puerto Vallarta: Nice port. It was very convenient having the Walmart right across the street from where we docked. At the Walmart we were able to get the pictures on the CD we'd purchased with pictures from our dolphin excursion printed. There was a nice small market right next to the ship and we bought several items. One of the items I'd purchased was found to have holes in it (shirt). The lady I bought it from was very good about taking it back and giving me something else. None of us did any excursions.
Huatulco: Where our sudden and unexpected event happened. This was the day where a sudden unexpected squall came up and the wind broke the ropes at the bow of the ship. As soon as possible after it happened the captain came on telling people what was happening and what they were doing to rectify the situation.My friend had stayed on board. My mother and I were on shore. My mother had gone on an excursion on a fishing boat. Once the squall hit (it hit them before it came onshore) they made the decision to come back to port right away. I had just finished shopping at the very nice shopping area and had dipped my feet in the water when a huge gust of wind and sideways rain hit. I was able to find shelter under an awning behind a small cantina. At some point during those first few minutes we heard a huge bang. One of the people sheltering with us worked for the ship and found out quickly that the rope had broken. The people at the cantina were very nice and had all of us come inside. We were able to see the ship from there and could see it was no longer at the dock. Once the rain lightened off I started going from area to area to see if I could find my mother. It was confusing at first as several men were telling us to go to a hotel with them to wait until we could get back on the ship. At first no one trusted them as we thought they were just trying to sell us something. But, finally several HAL staff told us it was ok and to go to the hotel where we could dry off and at least get some coffee. I found my mother on the way to the hotel. We found the staff with the ship were tremendous. They kept us apprised of their efforts at getting us back on the ship. We were told around 1 (storm had hit at 11) that they would be starting to take people back to the ship by tender around 2. Shortly after 2 we were tod that there were 2 tenders but as there were over 1200 people on shore it would take a long time to get everyone back. No one wanted to stay at the hotel and all went out to join the long line to get onto a tender. There was one man from the ship who went up and down the line telling everyone what was going on. He said there had been nothing on their radar or in weather reports that had predicted the story. One of the tenders broke down but everyone was quiet and patient. Finally around 3;30 we were told they had the gangway back up on the ship so we could go back that way. We all took off right away. Once we were on the ship we were told the Lido had been kept open so we were finally able to eat. I was very impressed how the captain and his crew handled this event. They made sure everyone knew what was going on.
Before the storm I'd been shopping. There was a small market right near the dock and then another one a block or so away. I found the people outside of the stores to be quite annoying and persistent trying to get you to go to their stores, go on tours, etc.
: We had to dock at a commercial section of the port that was further away from everything than had been planned. HAL put on several shuttle buses that took us to the market area. I think it was one of the best at any of our ports. It was quite large-circular so I got lost of course but it had lots of different things. Lots of bartering. We only stayed onshore for about an hour. It was too hot.
Again, we were at a very industrialized port. There was a small market a short way from where the ship was docked. It didn't have too much although both my friend and I found a couple of things to buy. It was kind of interesting as this seemed to be the town market with fruit and vegetables as well as used toys and clothes. Again, we only stayed on shore for a short time as it was too hot.
This was another difficult day for the Captain and passengers. We were warned ahead of time that it was a narrow dock with 2 ships tying up. We had planned on going on a train ride and boat ride but my mother was ill so we cancelled. It turned out that the people on that excursion were among the greatly delayed passengers and that as the excursion had left late much of where they went was dark by the time they got there. As we weren't among those who were on the excursions we can't really comment on how it was all handled. I know many were mad about various things including waiting a long time in the hot sun for their buses to arrive. At 8 pm we were told that we were still waiting for 260 passengers. The ship had been due to depart at 6:30, The last passengers arrived on board just after 10.
There was a market just off the dock. It was a long dock. The market was ok, .but very crowded. There were 2 ships in port at the same time. If the aisle in the middle had been wider it would have been easier for people to get through and look at each of the stands. There was a beach right next to the dock so I managed to dip my feet in the water there too.
Aruba: Our last port. We were docked a little further away from the shopping area than originally planned so there were shuttle buses to take us there. It was so hot that even waiting a few minutes for the bus was difficult. There was a nice shopping area including regular stores like the bamboo clothing store my mother had been looking for. And there was a long row of craft stalls where bartering was standard. We were onshore about 2 hours. It was extra hot with being on the pavement for so long. I had seen another street of craft stalls so said the others could go back to the ship and I'd come later. My friend noticed that my face was bright red. She picked up that I was showing signs of heat exhaustion. So, we left our last port with stores still unchecked by me but that was ok. I was fairly sick for several hours in the afternoon until I'd cooled down.