The Panama Canal transit cruise was a bucket list trip for us. Originally a 60th birthday present for my spouse - last year - it was delayed a year due to the pandemic and restart of cruising. We made our final payments in October, and then Omicron hit in mid-December - yikes. But, we decided to go ahead and go anyway as we figured it would be a safe way to travel during the pandemic - and we were right! Although the Bliss can hold 4004 passengers (double occupancy), there were only 1350-ish guests on board, so lots of room to social distance. We had N95 masks ready for the cruise, we got our booster shots at the end of December, and NCL's protocols included testing at the port for our embarkation so we knew we should be safe.
Embarkation was very fast and efficient although the testing took about an hour or so awaiting results. I love that you choose a time to arrive, that seemed to stagger the arrivals a bit better rather than a crush of passengers arriving all at once. We had booked a spa balcony cabin and chose the location under the barber shop/hair salon, so knew it would be quiet. Our stateroom # was 15856. The cabin was well laid out with all the amenities you need. The toiletries supplied in spa cabins is L'Occitane from France, a nice upscale brand. Our stateroom attendant was Wilson, he was very good at keeping our temporary home very clean and he was always friendly. Gave him a decent tip the night before the cruise ended, since the auto gratuities get split amongst everyone, and he deserved extra.
Our cruise included 4 specialty dining meals for the two of us, and we also wanted to try other specialty restaurants. Here's our list of specialty restaurants we went to, in order of best to worst.The worst wasn't bad at all, just not as good as the best:
We booked a spa balcony cabin, and chose the location under the barber shop/hair salon so we'd have a quiet stateroom, it was great! Amenities are very good with L'Occitane toiletries, bathrobe & slippers, unlimited access to the thermal spa, and the usual balcony cabin amenities of coffee maker, hair dryer, mini fridge, safe, etc. Cabins are well laid out and nicely decorated.
Went whale watching and saw humpback whales breeching. The best show was on the tender though, as there was a mother humpback whale and her calf breeching and playing in the inner harbour.
I have to admit it's not my favourite city as I found it incredibly humid (I sweat like a pig when it's humid). We did a city tour, and the tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and knew his history inside & out. Street vendors are incredibly aggressive, but it's okay to ignore them or sharply tell them 'no' when they get too pushy.
We did a city tour here, and the guide was very nice and friendly telling us lots of interesting tidbits about the city. Our tour visited the Malecon, the Romantic district and an upscale neighbourhood (I don't remember the name) and it was good with some walking and some time on the air conditioned bus.
Not really a port stop but a sail through. They brought on a narrator who made several talks broadcast ship wide as we traversed the Canal, he was excellent. He was obviously very proud of his country, and glowingly told us about the history of the Canal along with other tidbits about the country of Panama.