We just got back from an 8 night cruise on board the Enchantment of the Seas - Royal Caribbean. Embarking out of Colon, Panama, with stops in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Colombia; Santa Marta, Colombia; and Oranjestad, Aruba; finally docking in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
For those of you who want details on the actual ship "The Enchantment of the Seas" let's get started. It's a very nice ship, with very friendly staff, touches of luxury, lots of fun activities, and a really entertaining crew.
The ship itself, is kind of older, having launched into service in the late 90's. We had a balcony stateroom, and when you are on the balcony you can notice that the exterior paint is kind of old, and the balcony door is kind of old. But the stateroom itself was awesome. Pretty spacious in my opinion. Besides, you don't spend a whole lot of time in your room anyway. We found that our stateroom was exceptional clean at all times (thanks to our stateroom attendant) and was a nice place to sleep and recharge.
Our balcony stateroom was very nice. The exterior balcony paint was kind of old and starting to rust. The door was malfunctioning, but we got it fixed. The actually room was very, very clean and the bathroom was clean too. Kind of a small shower area, but very functional all in all. We liked it. There was plenty of space for all of our belongings.
Well, the ship docked first at Puerto Limon, Costa Rica and I guess there was some kind of labor strike so some of the Shore Excursion company buses were behind scheduled because the port people wouldn't let them into the dock area to pick up the cruise guests. This was no big deal, this delayed us around 10 minutes. After that got straightned out we boarded a bus that took us to this amazing rainforest. We took an Aerial Tram through the thick rainforest and got to see what it's like to be in the trees. It was very cool.
Lunch was provided which was nice. And authentic Costa Rican coffee was complimentary. Awesome.
The only downside was that the bus had to maneuver through some streets that needed to be re-paved. So the bus ride was a bit bumpy. It's kind of worth it though. When in your life can you actually get to see a real, genuine rainforest. Not only see it, but be in the rainforest. We saw a cool waterfall.
It was kind of rainy when we landed in Cartagena, Colombia....but who cares...we are on vacation, no rain is going to get us down!! We boarded a bus that took us around the city for a tour. It was cool. We walked through this downtown area, amongst the locals. Yes, we stuck out like sore thumbs as a herd of American tourists paraded through the area.
The architecture and the history of this city is amazing. See if for yourself, I don't want to spoil it. Amazing. Do the city tour, I heard the beach tour wasn't all that great. Besides, why would you lay on the beach, when this city has so much history to show you....the ancient settlers of this city built a wall around the city, keeping it from getting raided by pirates. Just some cool stuff to see.
Note, this port is SANTA MARTA, Colombia....the drop down box did not have Santa Marta as an option. I am reviewing the Santa Marta port.
We awoke by looking off of our balcony and seeing the breathtaking mountains and hills of Santa Marta. The ship was still moving but I saw this cool, tiny little island 100 yards off the coast of Santa Marta where there was a building on top of the island. It was so pretty. It was like being inside of a post card, it was that pretty.
We did the beach break at Santa Marta. They take you to a private, upscale, beach resort and we get to use the beach. There are a few vendors that ask you if you want their goods/services, just simply so "No, Gracias", and they leave you along. We had an armed guard on the beach with us....ok, not what you think "armed guard". There was a guy who was in a polo shirt on the beach, kind of providing security, and yes he did have a gun in his holster. For the most part, he kind of kept the vendors moving along so that they don't just loiter in front of the tourists. This didn't bother me at all....in fact, this help me to relax more....knowing that we had security. It was awesome. The beach was really, really nice. The water was probably the warmest ocean water I have ever experienced. It had to be around 85 degrees warm. It was awesome. A very relaxing and fun time on this shore excursion. Great lunch too!!
We honeymooned in Aruba about two years ago, so we wanted to do our own thing in Aruba and not go on any Royal Caribbean sponsored shore excursions.
The island of Aruba is special. Beautiful weather, beautiful beaches, and beautiful ambience. For tourists, all you need to know is that there is the downtown area of Oranjestad - great shopping, good restaurants, plentiful taxis. Then there is the High Rise area of the island, where there are tall hotels like the Hyatt, the Riu and the Marriott (crowded beaches, this area is furthest away from the downtown area). Then there is the Low Rise area, filled with boutique and smaller resorts (less crowded beaches, honeymooners and couples occupy these resorts).
You probably don't need to rent a car, you can get anywhere by taxi. Top attractions: the remains of the Natural Bridge, Baby Beach, Natural Pool, the light house, and the smaller private island called Palm Island.