We did as a couple the same cruise 3 years ago with Pullman`s Zenith and even if we would not expect luxury from this company overall the trip was nice.
Being in Panama again and counting this is the only option to take a cruise in Colon we decided to show the same itinerary to our kids but what a let down this time..
Starting with the basics - the cabin. Booking rather late the best we could find was a family outside room on an upper floor. Before we had a balcony room and we were ok now as soon as we entered the room we simply wanted to get out of ship and leave. The cabin is tiny even for 2 people and is set up that way you cant simply move not even considering where you would put your luggage as a big suitcase would not fit under bed.
Count they added to this tiny enclosure 2 upper beds over your already crowded floor beds. There was not way all 4 of us stand in the same time in the cabin. Tiny space for dressing and anyway that would have been the place to put your suitcase standing as the only option.
Bathroom even tinier and very very old - the wc seat was really eaten by age ... horrible.
My husband went to reception and didn`t left the place till we didn`t got a better solution - unfortunately they were really full and the only option with had was either 2 inside cabins or a special needs cabin outside- none was not nicer but was more space at least so we went for the outside partial view practically but still higher floor and a window.
Good that cabin had also a bigger bathroom.
Anyway given it was not featured for 4 people my husband spent all this cruise on a metallic camping bed ... seriously can you imagine coming to relax and ending sleeping camping style. I shared the main bed with our 2 kids so not more comfortable either.
Food - much less choice and taste than previously. Breakfast was too basic this time but ok eatable, too little choice in fruit and most of pineapple overdone but pastries were good. Lunch was ok in choice at least everyday was a fish option and this time we ended up eating more in the normal restaurant even breakfast as the buffet was to chaotic.
Dinner was more of let down too. First of all why put a daily menu if always one items - usually the one that was supposed to be best - was missing. First night after the disaster and huge disappointment with the cabin we didn't even ate dinner second we came to find out they gave us the worst table ever so we had to fight for our right to have at least a place where I can eat without being enclosed from all side and having serving stuff over my head all time, We ended up eating an hour late as we had to wait for a table.
Overall from 5 dinners I liked 2-3 starters, 2 deserts and refused to eat once the main dish as it was really bad but fish was mostly ok and at gala the steak was really nicely done. Pverall far from the standard even on Pullmantours.
The restaurants are really too old for a cruise ship - all chairs showed more than their age - gave up dressing up just looking how bad the chair restaurant looked like.
The personnel tried it`s best but at buffets always you could find the tables and chairs dirty - not to say I even saw a lady putting her pink plastic shoes on the table - personnel should take measures as is health risky especially on cruises.
In terms of bars we didnt even once tried the pool one typically knowing drinks there are not best so we just used the 5-th floor. Drinks were ok I preferred liquors to cocktails as in terms of preparation the quality really depended on who was doing them
For coffee definitely take the one in bar even for breakfast I preferred to go and take away a coffee from there.
They have a fancy bar at 14-th floor which is such a waste of great space as both service and drinks there are poor but the view is great and they could use better that space to make it in something wow.
Shops very average.
In terms of drinks you have some extra option to the already all inclusive last we bought it this time after seeing the overall quality we decided to stay away of it and we didn't miss much.
Common areas another down as the ship is really too old and it showed in too much in restaurants, in carpets, in rooms, in furnitures etc. They have 2 big pools but even with 2 days on sea we didn't spent a second inside pool or on the chairs there. First the pool towels were stinky so stinky you could smell it just being around. People would just sit with their boots on lounge chairs no towel nothing - I think personnel should be strict and impose people use a towel and keep the lounge chair clean for sunbathing purpose not as a rest for dirty shoes. Pool was too crowded.
You have a "VIP" option the waves program that practically a a price gives you access to restricted sunbathing area and some dedicated restaurant space but practically main ship features are still shared so I would not see the value add - just if we would find a superior room we would go for it for the sake of space and higher floor.
The only thing that still keeps a good standard was the service, most of personnel is nice and smiling. We had a very good cleaning lady - counting she needs to work with such old room - and service in restaurant was also nice most of the serving personnel in restaurant seemed to communicate well. In the 5-th floor bar except one lady that seemed to enjoy more cheating with her college and ignore clients rest of people serving were good and welcoming.
Interesting enough this time I have seen little to no management during day on ship as on other occasions they were more visible.
I gave a point for service and the other one for itinerary itself it is really a good one and pity they cant do more of it..
We decided to take no excursions with the cruise directly as we knew the places but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a very good price offer for 4 combined basic island tour and beach so if you are first time there go for it.
In terms of clients this is almost exclusively from the local region - embarking Colon and Cartagena and it shows in the way how everything is prepared and featured. But language is not an issue they still speak all English. Probably embarking most in Colombia that day is off for many activities on the boat and a bit chaotic in buffets and so on. I remember they had also Dutch groups embarking before in the Dutch islands not the case now practically count clients will be exclusively Central and South America but as mentioned English is still well spoken. Only case when Spanish was a barrier were the shows actually as all talk for jokes for example is Spanish.
The disembarkation in Colon is another negative if you plan to leave Panama same day as the check out and effective depart from ship is very early - you have to leave the ship between 7-8 am - for us was ok as we still had a hotel booked in the city but if you need to leave so early and your flight is at evening you`ll have trouble what to do with your luggage.
All in one I would not recommend this except the case you really want to go on this specific itinerary and you cant find another option - take a superior room for the sake of space but count even in Waves the ship and common grounds are same.
Family outside the worst cabin even have seen, impossible space even for 2 people how they could consider adding upper beds in such space. No place for luggage - you would have to block your dressing with the suitcases.
Very old room I would not even call it not dated but eaten by age.
The wc seat was really deep eaten by age - suppose is not even any longer in hygiene standard for a cruise.
We had to switch for a cabin that was bigger at least - not any better in terms of being old but at least we could stand all 4 of us in same time in the cabin
If you don`t take an excursion out of Colon than just stay on boat as there is nothing you can do here - if you just embark in Colon than head back to Panama city directly or to your next destination.
It`s a top destination - this time we just took a taxi to the old town - they will ask for 20$ we gave 15 we could do 10 probably - back the taxi from center just asked for 10 $ to the cruise dock.
Easy to visit by your own the old city. If you want to do the hop on hop off bus take in advance the tickets on line as the price is far too cheaper.
For kids stay at cruise terminal in the Port Oasis where they can enjoy the litlle zoo with tens of birds free on the ground.
In old Cartagena you just enjoy the streets, cafes, restaurants - it`s a city for those who love to take colorful pictures.
Count is really getting hot after 11 am already you will want to hide in shadow. If it rains you would have a trouble with their sewer system that seems to fail even in sunny days so either closed shoes or try to avoid flooded streets.
First of all the taxis are really a rip off - they will ask you 35 dollars even to go somewhere close at the edge of the city.
We rented a car that was the dirtiest ever and far to reach in rental location.
The beaches are too crowded and not the cleanest especially those you`ll target in a cruise day.
Still the main city is very nice and easily accessible from the cruise so makes it a nice stop and if you make it to the beach the water is just beautiful for swim and snorkel.
Best place ever for snorkel ... if its not raining. Not much to do in the main city so we rented a golf car and headed south for snorkel and sight seeing.
In Bonaire you get get in the water and it`s sure you will have a good snorkel but we preferred a piece of shore with sand so we stopped on one of the sand beaches not too many here but still was ok no crowds.
Than head south for spectacular views of the Salt exploitation and their pink ponds so well in contrast with the blue sea water. Even further the lagoon with some flamingos, the slave huts and the lighthouse.
Spectacular views all in one so if you rent a car plenty of time to leave morning and cover beach and sight seeing. Most of traffic to south is just tourists. We haven't done this time the north but is also very nice I would just avoid the eastern part as there is nothing much to see and is very windy. In general it`s high wind over the island.
Now I think there are 2 myths when it comes to Bonaire - rain and flamingos.
They say there are 360 days of sun so seems we caught all the other of rain when we were there as every time a part of the day was crazy pouring for hours. If you rent a scooter or golf cart that will be trouble...
The other myth flamingos - we checked north we checked south seen maybe tens never a hundred so probably wrong season every time ;) .
Still this place is very nice and you will not regret exploring.
Just walked to the beach you can also take a taxi or a bus there. There is not much to do on this island so take the best of it - the beach itself. It`s also very hot over day and no shadow so you might consider for a longer stay renting a chair and umbrella. If it`s raining there will be just boat time as the city itself has nothing much to offer - even the tax free shopping is just another tax free location.