Back-to-Back Panama Canal partial transit/full transit: Zuiderdam Cruise Review by Cruisin' Carrie

Zuiderdam 5
Cruisin' Carrie
Member Since 2011

Overall Member Rating

Back-to-Back Panama Canal partial transit/full transit

Sail Date: April 2011
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
My husband and I enjoy cruising - the best way to travel since his spinal cord injury left him with mobility challenges. Besides the excellent

Accessible Balcony Cabin, the excellent room stewards, tasty meals and special dining during "An Evening at Le Cirque" in the Pinnacle Grill, we received excellent support from Zuiderdam's Shore Excursion Team. Prior to ports of call I would go down and discuss with them the appropriateness of the shore excursions which we had pre-booked from home. Their suggestions were wonderful. Some ports in Central America are not very handicap-friendly. The Shore Excursion Staff even introduced me to Rafael Esparza, Operations Mgr. for Explora Caribe. Explora Caribe provided some of the ship's shore excursions and there was nothing suitable in the ship's offering so Sr. Esparza provided us with a private car and driver to take us to places which we could access, and at the rate which we would have paid for one of their bus tours. What wonderful More service!!!

Not only were we pleased with the ship and service, we are grateful to Cruise Critic for the opportunities to share information with and glean information from other travelers. We especially appreciated the information regarding touring in Corinto, Nicaragua, which will be discussed in more detail later. We visited quite a few ports which are not listed on CC's drop-down box. During our partial transit of the Panama Canal we took an excursion called The Shaping of Panama. It traveled to Panama City by highway with a nice luncheon there, then back to Colon. It was good to be able to see the countryside.

At Vera Cruz, Mexico, we visited the World Heritage Site of Tlacotalpan and the town of Alvarado. Tlacotalpan was wonderfully presented and a great opportunity to hike around and see prehistoric indigenous structures. At Alvarado we enjoyed a presentation of music and dance by students who are part of a group trying to preserve the local heritage.

Dos Bocas, Mexico, offered the Comalcalco Ruins featuring Maya constructions using bricks with unique designs and then Paraiso Town.

At Progreso, Mexico, we were provided a car by Explora Caribe (mentioned above) and went to Merida. The bus tours discouraged passengers with mobility issues but the driver of the car and the guide took us to see some small ruins plus Progreso's Zocalo, the Governor's Palace (take time to enjoy the art museum inside), The Cathedral. We had a wonderful lunch of locally-favorite foods at Los Almendros Restaurant and the driver and guide even took me to a bookstore in Merida where I could purchase some special volumes about the area.

In Corinto, Nicaragua, we used the services of John "Max" O'Connor for a private tour. We had found Max through Cruise Critic Reviews/Blogs and enjoyed our day. We shared his services with another couple whom we had met on board. The gentleman was in a wheelchair, complementary to my husband's use of an electric scooter (needs a wheelchair if the scooter couldn't be used.) We went to see the items which specifically interested us. Surprisingly, Max had to do some research for our tour because I had researched Corinto online and had come up with some places which were not on the usual tourist path.

At Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, we were not feeling well so cancelled the planned shore excursion to Antigua but did go ashore to do a bit of shopping and see a bit of local color. They have a very nice development there at the port with musicians and vendors selling their wares. Less

Published 07/03/11

Cabin review: VB8031 Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom

Nice Handicap-Accessible Cabin. It was difficult to get the electric scooter over the threshhold, which had come a bit loose, but the ship's crew fixed it immediately. The pipes in the overhead of the balcony could use some cleaning as the wrap on them shows algae growth, but this really was a great cabin for our needs.

Read All Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom (VB) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

We enjoyed a cruise of the Bay of Acapulco with a special stop near La Quebrada to see the famous cliff divers dive from the rocks 134 feet into the bay. Two of the divers swam out to our ship (shore excursion vessel) and came aboard to greet us and have pictures taken, etc. There was also an excellent lunch provided us and there was plenty of time to shop for souvenirs after the bay cruise.
Read 204 Acapulco Reviews

Oranjestad was lovely, but the best part of our tour was seeing the collapsed natural bridge and the smaller, Baby Natural Bridge, still standing beside the one which collapsed. You can really see the power of nature. Like the tour of Curacao, the overall tour here in Aruba also featured aloe. This stop on the tour was at a factory where they showed a bit of the processing/packaging and had a very fancy sales room. The aloe factory in Aruba was not a good stop for us as we felt two in two days were one too many and the one in Curacao was more interesting and not set up with such a fancy sales room.

Read 1290 Aruba Reviews

This was a beautiful port but we enjoyed it from onboard the Zuiderdam as we were recovering from the upper-respiratory "bug" we had contracted. This was a tender port and the tenders were bobbing like corks in the water so we were quite content to enjoy the views from our balcony.

We toured Cartagena's Bay in a replica of a Spanish Galleon. The tour was very interesting and the musical entertainment on board was great with live music and dance. Would like to return to Cartagena and see more but we are concerned about the difficulty of uneven walking areas when using a wheelchair or scooter.

Highlights of our day in Willemstad, Curacao were the Curacao Museum, a folkloric show, a tour of an ostrich farm and a tour of an aloe plantation. This aloe plantation allowed you to get out in amongst the plants and really see how they were cultivated.

Read 917 Curacao Reviews

Back to Ft. Lauderdale to disembark some passengers and take on some new ones. Our planned shore excursion to the Everglades had been cancelled so we decided to just stay aboard. Unfortunately, there was a lot of illness on board (upper respiratory) so they insisted all passengers go ashore for the day while the ship had a good scrub-down. Those of us who had not planned on going ashore were given complimentary tickets to the Sawgrass Mall. It was a boring waste of time, but it did give the crew time to do extra cleaning. Incidentally, we both came down with the "bug" and had excellent care from the doctor on board with antibiotics, etc.

Really enjoyed the Veragua Rainforest with its Arial Tram and Research Station Tour. It was wonderfully accessible to the handicapped.

The Eco Tropical Mangrove River Cruise was enjoyable and interesting. We enjoyed seeing mangroves, many species of birds, crocodiles and howler monkeys in their native settings.

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Cruisin' Carrie
Member Since 2011
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