24 April-Acapulco EmbarkationWe spent 2 nights in Acapulco prior to the cruise, there were no problems whatsoever and we felt no threats or danger. We stuck to the touristy things-cliff divers, Papagayo Park, the Zocalo (where we ate breakfast with normal Mexican people in a cafe) and some markets. We also did the Walmart run to stock up on soft drinks-Dr Pepper, sunscreen and bug spray. We got to the cruise terminal around 3pm, very easy embarkation; the whole thing took about 15 minutes. I was surprised to see our cabin had been changed from the originally booked B221 to B322 and was worried as I had done no research on this cabin. We followed the crew's directions to our new cabin and were VERY happily surprised and shocked to see a BALCONY!!! We had been given a huge 17 category upgrade from JJ to BC! I took the initial photos with the cabin in pristine condition, then we dropped the backpacks and ran upstairs to check out the buffet. After stuffing ourselves silly, we went off to explore the ship a bit, then back to the cabin to unpack. Our room steward came by to introduce himself, nice guy from the Philippines who was happy to learn we had just been there last year in Palawan. We went up to the pool for a while, then back down to get ready for muster which was 7:30pm, half an hour before sail away. Then we were up on the deck for sail away as we watched the lights of Acapulco fade away. Time for more food so back to the buffet, and then we finished up the night with the Welcome Aboard show hosted by cruise director, Billy Hygate.25 April-HuatulcoHad to get up fairly early for breakfast then meet in the Princess Theatre for our shore excursion-Eco-walk and Bird-Watching. This was a small tour, only 10 people, two of whom were very keen birders and had been to Central America before and knew most of the species. The guide was excellent and he found a lot of interesting birds for us. Of course my favourites were the Orange-chinned parakeets but we saw lots of very pretty birds like trogons, flycatchers, a motmot and the local Crested Blue Jay who was gorgeous. We only had a short stop here so after the tour, we had a chance for some quick shopping to get rid of our leftover pesos, and then back on board. We ate at the buffet again, and then saw the production show "Dance" which was pretty good. Then we went to Explorers Lounge to play the Majority Rules game which was loads of fun and definitely "adults only"!26 April-At SeaOur first sea day was very relaxing and gave us more time to appreciate the ship. We had breakfast in the dining room for a change and the Eggs Florentine was delicious.Then we went to the port talk given by a fellow Aussie-Adam. He only spoke briefly about San Juan del Sur and Puntarenas and spent more time talking about Ocho Rios and the shopping there. He had "Savvy Shopper" packages on offer which give you a nice portfolio and a coupon book but we passed knowing we wouldn't have enough time for shopping (or money). We both went up to the pool for a while; I was more interested in relaxing in the Jacuzzi after the long walk yesterday. We had pizza and hotdogs for lunch by the pool-both of which were really good. Ina went back to the pool and I went to a port lecture by Dr Thomas Ryan called "Mayas, Lords of the Jungle" which was pretty interesting. He had a quiz afterwards and I won a huge 650 page book called "The Path Between the Seas" by knowing one of the answers.This was our first formal night and while we didn't have real formal wear, we did our best for the Captain's Welcome Aboard party and Champagne Waterfall. We didn't do any of the photos opps, just seemed a bit contrived with a waiter helping people slosh champagne all over the place so I concentrated on getting as many free glasses as I could before they stopped serving free champagne. We opted for the buffet as many people were in tuxes and business suits tonight. There were servers at the buffets and I assumed this was because of formal night because the servers were in formal uniforms. The production show was "Motor City" which was a nice medley of Motown hits and cool costumes.27 April-San Juan Del Sur, NicaraguaWe had to get up early for breakfast and there were still servers at the buffet, we weren't allowed to serve ourselves much to my annoyance. I found out some people had gotten Montezuma's Revenge in Mexico and the ship staff won't allow anyone to serve themselves at the buffet. They won't even let you put your own condiments on the hotdogs and burgers on deck 15 either. We met in the Princess Theatre for the tour-Masaya Market, Masaya Volcano and Granada City Tour. This time there were two large buses full, we got one of the Princess camera crews so hopefully we will be on the DVD. The market was awesome-lots of bird souvenirs and I went nuts over feather paintings and other artworks. The stop was way too short; we only got through half the market before we were rushed back to the bus. We did the most shopping though we saw some people with hammocks and other goodies. The stop at the volcano was a brief peek into the cauldron and a viewpoint at the top of the stairs which we decided to view from the bottom. The lunch stop at La Filete was OK but basic food. The final stop was at Granada which is a beautiful colonial city with lots of old buildings and churches. I managed to catch a free wifi signal near the museum and download emails. There was a dance performance in the zocalo with nice costumes. On the way back to the ship, we had time so made a stop on Lake Nicaragua to see the volcano. Closer to the ship, I spotted about 10 monkeys in trees and shouted out but the guide wouldn't stop. I also saw a motmot (national bird of Nicaragua) but once again, they didn't stop. There was a small market near the ship, then we had to get the tender back to the ship. By dinnertime, I was annoyed to see servers at the buffet again; I was hoping they would let us choose our own food. I tend to be a gutsier traveller and neither of us are the sort who get sick so I wasn't the least bit worried unless the sickness screwed up other aspects of the cruise like ports of call. Other people seemed to be happy with the overkill of germ prevention. The evening's entertainment was a magician called Gaetano and his assistant Heidi who managed to change in and out of her skimpy outfits very rapidly. We crashed out early knowing tomorrow would be an early day.28 April-Puntarenas, Costa RicaUgh-still more buffet-serving paranoia! Are they ever going to let us serve ourselves? We finished quickly, then managed to get down to the docks and were allowed off 15 minutes early. Our guide, Alvaro from Odyssey Tours hadn't arrived yet but he showed up before 7am and handed us to his birding guide-Nestor who studies biology and knows birds very well. We headed off to Carara National Park to see the scarlet macaws, this is one of the rare places in the world where they are common and can be easily found. The trails were muddy because the first rain of the season had been the previous night and we were struggling to stay on our feet. Ina was the first to fall flat on his back-not hurt but got all muddy. I later fell on my side because I was protecting my camera. We spent about an hour watching the scarlet macaws come and go, then headed back to one of the main trails near the park entrance. There weren't many birds on this side but the leaf-cutter ants were really interesting. From Carara, we went to the town of Tarcoles but decided to pass on the crocodile show, head straight for lunch at a typical Costa Rican lady's home and then shopping at Molas and Cafe which had a nice selection and accepted credit cards (I was in trouble, LOL). The final stop was the El Manantial Sanctuary also called Lapa Sanctuary to see Costa Rican birds up close flying free. On the way, we saw a beautiful motmot (national bird of Nicaragua) and 2 trogons nesting. The sanctuary was really nice, most of the macaws were free to come and go as they pleased but chose to hang around for the free food. All the birds here had been recovered from smugglers or private collections. There were also some non-Costa Rican birds like Hyacinth Macaws, cockatoos and eclectus. Nestor dropped us back at the end of the market near the ship where I quickly bought some more parrot art and we made it back on the ship in time. Back on the ship, we had to really rush eating and get back to the Adrian Zmed concert which was a really great show in the Universe Lounge. After the show, we did a quick casino run to get cash on our cruise cards to pay for shopping and tours without paying a cash advance fee. We would each take a $100 draw, play a few rounds on the slot machines and then cash in. Most cases, we came out a couple dollars ahead.29 April-At Sea/Royal WeddingI set my alarm for 4:30 am and was up to the MUTS screen to watch the royal wedding in time to see the royal family arrive and the actual wedding. Catherine Middleton was of course a stunning bride and it's pretty special to have the memory of watching the wedding from the top deck of a cruise ship off the coast of Panama. After the balcony kiss, I went to the dining room for breakfast; Ina has eaten long ago and was lounging around the pool. The Eggs Benedict were good and I shared the table with a couple others who had gotten up for the wedding. I made a quick casino run, and then noticed several adults sitting around doing arts and crafts with posters and construction paper near the casino. I decided to make a "From Panama With Love" poster featuring a scarlet macaw for tomorrow. I had to grab a quick pizza, and then rush back down for the port lecture on Panama by Dr Thomas Ryan. By this time, I was pretty tired but decided to stay awake until after the show because of the early Panama day. There weren't any production shows but there was a celebration of the 100th ship to join the Carnival Corporation, a humongous cake and free champagne, so I managed to drink 4 glasses as Ina doesn't like champagne. Ready to crash, I set the alarm and passed out. Ina watched a movie.30 April-Panama Canal/ColonWe were up before dawn as the ship headed towards the canal. Dr Ryan began his narration around 6am and unfortunately told everyone about the "secret" deck at the front of Baja and Caribe decks so it started to get crowded. We stayed up front through Miraflores locks, and then ran back to the balcony when the ship photographers appeared on our side of the ship. Our balcony was on the port side and we got to see all the passing ships up close. We stayed on the balcony for most of the crossing as we were getting good views of passing ships and the land though no parrots were seen, just sea birds. We got to see a few cruise ships passing-Sea Princess, Amsterdam and Regency Seven Seas. It got hot as we approached Gatun locks so we went back up front for a while to see how the locks work which was really interesting. We docked in Colon half an hour late and it was a madhouse to get off the ship with lines doubled up to the casino and back, then a madhouse in the few souvenir shops available. I did manage to find a few nice molas at prices similar to the shop in Costa Rica. The only way to get a better price is to get away from the touristy places. I got online to check emails from the coffee shop-free with purchase of drink, and then boarded the ship just in time for sail away. Because we were late, we almost forgot the production show in Universe Lounge-Tribute but saw half the show. We had some buffet food before turning in for the night.1 May-At SeaFinally a day we didn't have to get up early! We lazed around the pool and Jacuzzi all morning, and then I went to the port lecture called "Pirates of the Caribbean" after lunch. We did another casino run without much luck this time but lost about $2 between us. Other than the port lecture, there wasn't much of interest going on; a couple of ballroom classes, trivia, a cooking demo might have attracted others. The production show "What a Swell Party" was really good with a roaring 20's theme and nice costumes. We watched the 3rd heat of the karaoke competition which was amusing but one guy was really good. Next was the Newlywed Game which was hilarious and got VERY personal and adult!! Once we got back to the room, I put on CNN and saw the fantastic news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US Navy Seals which totally made our day!2 May-Ocho RiosAfter the usual buffet breakfast, we were disappointed to see rain over the island of Jamaica-not good for bird watching. We docked on time and got off the ship very easily, no long lines. Wendy Lee, our birding guide picked us up and took us to a great place for yellow-billed parrots where we had good views and spent an hour watching them frolic while trying to keep my camera dry. Some olive throated parakeets showed up briefly but disappeared when the rain started up again. Fern Gully was closed due to maintenance and it was too rainy to go into the hills with the camera gear so we went to Wendy's sanctuary and saw some native parrots she had rescued up close until we got rained out again. It was only a 6 hour cruise stop so we had to head back to town as I wanted to see Enchanted Gardens again. It's changed since 2008, Clarence doesn't work there anymore but the new aviary guide-Damien also really loves birds and has a nice rapport with them. We did save the admission as we didn't book a full tour, the manager just let us go to the aviary for free and we tipped Damian $10 for a half hour visit. My little Jamaican parakeet-Tiki whom I had named last time we were there was doing great and loves to sit on peoples' heads! After r the tour, Wendy dropped us at Island Village where I managed to get online and check emails for free at Bluemont cafe (with purchase) make sure our pet parrots were doing fine with the bird sitter, then do a bit of shopping. We finished off the day with a visit to Margaritaville to have some jerked pork and buy more t-shirts with parrots on them. Of course when we boarded the ship, the weather was beautiful!Back on the ship, we grabbed some pizza, and then took a break to see a movie-Social Network and relax a bit. The entertainment was really fun, they had adults (most over 50) batting balloons around like little kids and acting silly, then the crew put on a talent show that featured Indian dancing, several singers, tap dancing, hip-hop and a surprise performance by cruise director Billy Hygate of "If I Were a Rich Man" that was worthy of any theatre on the West End or Broadway.3 May-At SeaLast sea day and a chance to sleep in and eat breakfast in the dining room for a change-more Eggs Benedict. Then we began the horrendous duty of packing, went down to see the last lecture by Dr Ryan about Fidel Castro. I managed to win a CD of his book by answering a question right. We picked up the cruise DVDs and went back to finish packing. Lunch was a yummy Italian buffet with expanded pastry bar and we stuffed ourselves silly again. Not much to do in the afternoon, just an arts and crafts class and I made one last casino run with a small win. We spent the afternoon at the pool and hot tub, and then rested a bit before going to the dining room for dinner-just couldn't resist Baked Alaska. The show was a couple doing piano and banjo tunes, then we caught the finals of Princess Pop Star. 4 May-Disembarkation Fort LauderdaleOne last chance to stuff ourselves at a breakfast buffet and then we carried our own stuff off the ship. No dramas, we went with the assigned group, smooth entry into the USA and we were off to get the rental car. The shuttle was a regular bus that let us out at the airport where we had to get our rental car.
Perfect for viewing the Panama Canal, port side balcony. Usual tiny shower but otherwise great cabin, convenient to elevators and buffet.