My husband and I have been cruising with Royal Caribbean for years. We love the cruise line and have always had a good experience. It was my bucket list item to go on a Panama Canal Cruise. We usually take about one cruise per year but had never gone for more than one week. The Panama Canal cruises usually run 15-16 nights. We decided NOT to wait until after we retired!.
We went on the Jewel of the Seas in February of 2019. Yes, I'm just getting around to posting! (lol) The cruise was 16 nights and after doing research, we opted for the cruise from East to West which would enable us to view more sunsets plus this cruise gave us one more port. We left from Miami and finished in San Diego. This ship is a couple fleet classes down (in size) but we loved the layout of the ship. Because of it's smaller size, there are also less people, less lines, less crowds. When going through the canal, the ship was just feet from the wall.
All of the shows were great and a good variety. We didn't have to make reservations and several times we went to both seatings because we enjoyed the show so much. We saw several hilarious comedians, a fantastic hypnotist, an entertaining magician and a very cool Beatles tribute band called the Beatlemaniacs. In fact, they played two different nights and afterwards, I felt like I really saw the Beatles with all the screaming that was going on.
Our ports of call were great. Cartagena,Colombia was our first stop and although we knew little about it, we really enjoyed the ancient walled city. Other ports were Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala (loved it) and three stops in Mexico to include an overnight stay in Cabo San Lucas. We had 8 days in a port and 8 days at sea. We enjoyed our time at sea where we could relax and explore the ship. There is plenty to do!
The highlight was crossing the Panama Canal. That was the reason for the trip and my bucket list. I loved every moment of it and it took us about 10 hours to cross. A lady boarded our ship from the Panama Canal Authority and she narrated the entire crossing from the Captain's Bridge, which was very interesting. For the most part, we could hear her fairly clearly - even though we were outside for most of it. We went through the old locks which is just what I had hoped for. It was definitely like what I had learned about when I was younger and the architecture of each lock is amazing. They just don't build things like that anymore. The great thing about being on a big ship, is when it gets hot, you slip inside to cool off and have a drink. As you cross the large Gatun Lake, there is not as much to see, although it is beautiful. Take that time to eat lunch or dinner and then be available to go back out on deck once you get to the next lock.
We had very few children on our voyage which was an extra bonus. Although we've enjoyed all of the cruises we have taken, this was our favorite and the most adventurous. We chose excursions to include zip-lining, horseback riding, parasailing and whale watching. Every one of them was organized and fun. We never felt unsafe anywhere. We were most surprised by Guatemala and how beautiful it is. We went to the ancient city of Antigua and saw three volcanoes on the drive.
We were fortunate to have been able to do this. When things return to normal, if it's on your bucket list - do it!
We like the size of the cabins with a balcony. It was not a Junior Suite size but still plenty large enough for two people. A balcony is a must have for a trip of this length and with so much to see.