7 Pearl Seas Pearl Mist Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

My wife and I took a trip through the Panama Canal with Pearl Seas February 14 – 23, 2016, which turned out to be anything but what was advertised. Much was promised and next to nothing delivered. If you’re planning on taking this ... Read More
My wife and I took a trip through the Panama Canal with Pearl Seas February 14 – 23, 2016, which turned out to be anything but what was advertised. Much was promised and next to nothing delivered. If you’re planning on taking this cruise (which is advertised for 2017), but sure to ask about what you’ll see exactly. Pearl Seas advertised a two-day trip through the Panama Canal and delivered only an overnight transit of four hours in which we could see nothing. We saw the locks at either end, but that was it. We did not see the Gaillard Cut, Soberania National Park or Lake Gatun. The major reason all of us on the ship took this trip was to see the Panama Canal. The trip was a waste of time, money and put us in danger on several occasions. Most of the people on this cruise were old enough they will not have the opportunity in the future to take a second trip through the canal to see what Pearl Cruise didn’t deliver. Pearl Seas advertised two National Parks and Coiba Island and delivered none of them. These were major draws for signing up and major disappointments when they didn’t deliver them. Pearl Seas tour staff was incompetent. The problems started with arrival-date botched reservations and food and beverage gouging at the Marriott in Costa Rica, and the fact that no Pearl Seas representative was at the hotel to meet us. Pearl Seas tour staff did not accompany the passengers on tours except when they wanted to tour themselves, and when they did, they always did it together, rather than splitting up to cover several groups. It was very hard to understand most of the guides, so it would have been helpful to have someone from the ship to clarify when necessary. Likewise, there were no radios with the groups other than at the tender to call back to the ship in case of emergency. The tour staff didn’t provide maps, or water at the start of the trip (although the water situation they later corrected). The scheduling of when rooms left for tours was done in numerical order, so people on the upper decks only got late tours and people on the lower decks only early ones. They also did not organize the people getting back on the tender from tours, which resulted in some pushing and shoving. Quite frankly, it seems they had not scouted out the stops we were making, and were unfamiliar with the local arrangements that had been made. The ship was apparently having stabilizer problems so could not navigate the seas in the open Caribbean, necessitating a longer journey to Cartagena in which we hugged the coastline. On February 17, we had a scheduled “nature” hike and were told it was an easy one. It turned out to be anything but. We were taken by local boat to Gobernadora Island. No one from Pearl Mist was with us. The “local” guide was from another island and we had to wait for a truly local man (who was not a guide and could not speak English) to lead us. No water was provided, and no maps. After waiting for quite some time for the two “guides” to get organized, we started our hike. There was nothing to see. No animals or flowers, and no commentary was provided. We just hiked along a barbed wire fence through dry leaves. The hike was hot and up and down hills and across streams. Most of the people were not physically able to complete the hike without difficulty. The first person to fall behind was rather frail. The English-speaking guide stayed behind with him as he and his wife worked slowly thorough the hike. This made it difficult for us to communicate with the truly local man, who spoke a dialect of Spanish. The second person to go down was a very large man, fainting in spectacular fashion, and hitting the ground hard. Four gentlemen helped him most of the way to the beach, but he finally couldn’t go any further and they had to stop short of the beach. The truly local man from the island did not know where to go and lead the group onto private property. When the situation was explained to the couple who lived there, they came out and showed the group the way to the beach. Even then, three of the hikers got separated from the group and had to pay $40 to a local boat to be taken back. When the main group got back onboard and the situation explained, the ship sent a medic, stretchers, a wheelchair and four strong men to carry the big guy out. The frail man, his wife, and the English-speaking guide were lost for a while but caught up with the people helping the big guy. We all made it back to the ship, but both men had numerous cuts and bruises. A one-hour hike had turned into a four-hour nightmare. We had no way of communicating with the ship, but luckily, the common sense of some of the hikers (including bringing excess water, some military training and the presence of a doctor on the hike), and the sympathy of the property-owning couple saw us through. We were not the only passengers on this ship who were disappointed and many expressed their disappointment. The end result was not anything like the original advertisement. I noticed the verbiage in this year’s advertisement for the cruise has been toned down considerably. With such a major change in itinerary, wouldn’t you have thought the company would have informed it’s customers and offered them the opportunity to cancel? Time and again we were “dumped” on non-descript beaches with poor amenities to pass the time. We received next-to-no value for what we paid. Aside from the touring, the Pearl Seas hotel staff was excellent. The rooms were well taken care of, and the food was very good. The hotel staff and entertainers stepped in to provide overtime efforts the night we were going through the locks to please people when it became obvious many were disgruntled about the passage though the canal. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Our third trip with Pearl/America. Two previous trip were outstanding. This trip was outside continental shores to Costa Rico, Panama and Colombia. PROS: Both hospitality and operations staff pleasant and attentive (particularly to ... Read More
Our third trip with Pearl/America. Two previous trip were outstanding. This trip was outside continental shores to Costa Rico, Panama and Colombia. PROS: Both hospitality and operations staff pleasant and attentive (particularly to elderly and mobility restricted), excellent food, open seating, great happy hour, excellent awesome entertainment (Laura and Bill and Dusty and Stevie), excellent service, knowledgeable and instructive lectures (Bill is great), urban tours well done, spacious and clean stateroom, staff support during sea sickness was responsive and comforting, scenery was spectacular, Canal passing and tours were beyond expectation. Carti Island and the Kanu people was different and fun. Shore tours were informative and gave us a feel for the local people and conditions. As usual, Marcie, John and Mike were wonderful. Laura and Bill became more than entertainers and functioned often as adjunct crew doing shepherding and announcements. Everything aboard ship was excellent. Similar to our previous trips, we got to meet and know some dear friends.Trip certainly fulfilled a 'bucket list' item for us. We totally support their river cruise programs. CONS: Published support upon arrival was TERRIBLE. No Pearl Seas personnel were present for guidance to the booked hotels. Our small group was taken to three different hotels late at night in a foreign location where we had no reservations and no contact with Pearl Seas and no interpreter. Our group of 10-12 felt totally abandoned. Some rural tours not compatible with elderly mobility (did not seem to be well thought out considering the average age of the passengers, example - exiting and boarding local tenders through the surf, some hikes had not been verified in advance, no water, no interpreters, degree of difficulty not verified). Rural town tours moved hastily through the towns with no local immersion. Daylight Canal passing would have been preferred. Someone should have known that the Manuel Antonio National Park was closed on Monday. Ship size seems better suited for close-in coastal cruising rather than open sea sailing. She was uncomfortable in the larger seas. It seemed as if no significant advance review of excursions had been made by Pearl Seas. Advance personal inspection should be done before setting the cruise excursions and program. As another passenger commented re: their international trips "Pearl is not yet ready for prime time ". Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Our pearl seas cruise on the pearl mist was not what we signed up for. The literature In advance , interesting itinerary and the material when we arrived were misleading and inaccurate. From start to finish we were lied to, skipped ... Read More
Our pearl seas cruise on the pearl mist was not what we signed up for. The literature In advance , interesting itinerary and the material when we arrived were misleading and inaccurate. From start to finish we were lied to, skipped promised excursions and stops and the start of it was that there was no one at the airport to meet us. Once we checked in at The Marriott, other Pearl Seas guests were turned away with no reservation and sent elsewhere. Actually the worse of it was traversing the Panama Canal at night. Ridiculous since we had chosen this itinerary specifically to transverse from the Pacific to the Atlantic in its entirety, not overnight in darkness. In addition, rooms and carpeting were damp due a faulty A.C. System, the ship's stabilizers were broken so we were in rough seas for 36 hrs. Rockin and Rollin. The ship neglected to have dressers, lamps nailed to the walls so furniture was toppling injuring passengers and being hit with flying full size Keurag coffee makers. There were no safes, robes or working tv....only 2 movie channels...no news... The balcony door locked by us continued to be unlocked later in the day leading us to wonder who was prowling about. Excursions were not as described. We missed 2 Unesco sites and the crown jewel of Costa Rica....Antonio Marco national park was closed on the Monday we were there. They did not plan their route accordingly. It was a major reason we had chosen this itinerary. My husband's 1 hr. Fishing e petition trolled about 40 miles an hr. The entire time not slowing down enough to catch any fish. One day on a treacherous hike, people were on their own with only a Spanish speaking escort and some had to find and pay door their own transportation back to the ship. Local guides spoke poor English and what was suppose to be a city tour ended up going to a very rural local village. When asked to sign up for excursion time slots, all 180 passengers were crowded around a small wall area to try and get selected time slots...unorganized. John was one of the leaders all week but never gave accurate responses to questions, lied and was rude and insulting. There should have been levels of difficulty on the excursions since many handicapped people had great difficulty and others that could move faster were slowed down as a result. Positives are worth mentioning since the food was very good and the Cabin crew and waitstaff were outstanding as was Bogdan, the dining room manager. Also the musicians and nightly entertainment and magic shows were excellent thanks to Steve, Dusty, Bill and Laura. But the complimentary wines offered were of poor quality and with no variety. The ship overall was dated in appearance, basic with very overcrowded lounge furnishings with not enough room to accommodate all the passengers at the same time. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
We signed up for the Pearl Seas cruise through the Panama Canal mostly because we were interested in the two national parks in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park and Corcovade National Park, as well as Coiba Island in Panama. The ... Read More
We signed up for the Pearl Seas cruise through the Panama Canal mostly because we were interested in the two national parks in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park and Corcovade National Park, as well as Coiba Island in Panama. The first and third of these parks are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Pearl Seas website and the pre-cruise materials described the parks in glowing terms and talked about all the wildlife that we would be likely to see. As it was, the ship did not visit any of the three locations! Manuel Antonio park is closed in Monday, and has been for many years, and yet we were scheduled to visit on a Monday! This is clearly blatant and false advertising! No explanation was ever given as to why we did not stop at the advertised locations. The ship's crew repeatedly said that they had the right to change ports of call at any time. Maybe Pearl Seas should advertise trips to the moon! It is obvious that the ship never intended to stop at the advertised ports; they were merely used to lure unsuspecting victims into taking (and paying for!) this cruise. The cruise was a disaster from the beginning. We were met by Pearl Seas' staff at the airport. They were confused and didn't know which passengers were staying in which hotels. We were told we were staying at the Courtyard of Marriott and were taken there. We waited behind a long line of people to check in only to find out there was no reservation for us when it was our turn! This was the case with all members of our group who arrived at different times from different cities in the US and Canada. We were then taken to the Marriott Residence where we were finally given a room. The outings that the ship did arrange were of very poor quality and were poorly planned and executed. There was not even enough space for all passengers on the few activities that were offered. We saw virtually no wildlife which was the reason for booking this trip in the first place. On one outing, we were scheduled to go on a nature hike. The boat transfer dropped us off on an inhabited island. There were no paths and no guide and the residents of the island were clearly offended at our presence. There was no way to contact the boat to return for us and no way to call the ship. How could the shop disregard such a cardinal rule of safety. No ship employee or representative was even with us during this outing. We were accompanied on the short walk we did take by several very skinny stray dogs who growled at us from time to time! The outing was so bad that it was almost funny; if we had not paid a boatload of money to go on this trip, that is! Snorkeling was advertised as an activity at some locations but no equipment was available for use or for rent. The ship's advertising talked about traversing the Panama Canal as a day activity, but our transit was overnight. We went through the three locks on the Pacific side from around 8:00 PM to midnight. We then went to bed. In preparation for this trip I had read David McCullough's book "The Path Between the Seas", and excellent 698 page book about the building of the Panama Canal. I was eager to see the famed Culebra cut in which the mountain that runs from north to south through central America was cut through to allow for the building of the canal. Alas, it was very late at night and dark and there was nothing to see. What a disappointment! The stabilizers of the ship were broken, causing much rocking and rolling during even relatively calm seas. As a result, I spent two evenings with my head in the trash can, vomiting. We also missed a snorkeling outing as the captain decided to hug the coast in the return to Cartagena rather than take the direct route. I believe he was worried about the sea-worthiness of a ship designed for still rivers with broken stabilizers. One member of the ship's staff was particularly beligerent and rude to passengers. At one of the evening briefings about the next day's outing, a passenger who was not with our group stood up to complain about the missed national park outings and the crossing of the Panama canal at night. Crew member John began to argue with the passenger and ended up shoving him? This was absolutely beyond belief! Final words - do not sail with Pearl Seas if the destination is important to you. You may not see or do what is advertised. Beware!!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Pros;s - nice cabins, decent food, good dining service, ample snacks in lounge areas, free wifi. Con's - no TV as promised. However the real con was the amount we paid compared to what we received. Major issues with hotel ... Read More
Pros;s - nice cabins, decent food, good dining service, ample snacks in lounge areas, free wifi. Con's - no TV as promised. However the real con was the amount we paid compared to what we received. Major issues with hotel reservations on the night prior to the cruise. People were bused between three different hotels and some did not get rooms until after midnight. We were on their last cruise from Costa Rica through the Panama Canal and ending in Columbia. The excursions in Costa Rica were not as promised. Many on those on this cruise selected this itinerary to see Manual Antonio National Park and Cobia Island. The National Park was closed the day we were in Quepos and they decided not to take us to Cobia Island as it would be be too crowded that day. Instead they sent us on a hike to an island on unsafe boats (no life preservers) without real guides. We had a near death experience with one of our tour participants and RSC did not have a cruise rep on this tour. Our tours in Panama and in Colombia were good. If you are considering the cruises to Cuba be sure that you read good reviews about the cruise, tours and etc before booking. PSC does not provide the cruise that they publicize on their brochures so buyers beware!!!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
We have just completed our first trip with this cruise line and I was very impressed with this company, cruise ship and it's crew. Yes, this cruise had some issues (Panama Canal), but more importantly, is how problems were handled. ... Read More
We have just completed our first trip with this cruise line and I was very impressed with this company, cruise ship and it's crew. Yes, this cruise had some issues (Panama Canal), but more importantly, is how problems were handled. It was a pleasure and very exceptional to cruise with a company that really put their passengers first. Those in charge of this ship were generally concerned and worked hard to assure that everyone received a great experience. The food was very good and well presented. My husband, would be happy with just hamburgs/hot dogs as he is just a meat and potato man!! The cabins are lovely, large in size, complete with a large bathroom and shower. There is a small TV (19 inch) in each cabin. If traveling where there is no signal or if you wish something else to watch, their are many DVD's available. Upon arrival, you will not say "WOW" to this ship's beauty, but it is very pretty, designed and decorated in good taste. The ship is quite and you just enjoy. The ship's day time to touring events was perfect, allowing all to pace their day to their comfort level. If assistance was required, as many were of an older age, it was provided quickly and with pleasure.....everyone was included. They arranged very good buses for transport and had excellent tour guides, tours were well paced. The on board lecturer was GREAT....the room was always packed with everyone very excited about the talk and with great anticipation for the next program. The passengers were very friendly, well traveled and full of wonderful life experiences that they shared during each evening's cocktail time. Each evening, following dinner, there is some entertainment with the evening raped up by approximately 9:30pm. We enjoyed our trip and plan to cruise with this line in the future. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
We selected this small cruise line because of great reviews, but in this first effort to visit Columbia, Panama and Costa Rica they failed their passengers in so many ways it is difficult to find any positives. Digging deep, I would say ... Read More
We selected this small cruise line because of great reviews, but in this first effort to visit Columbia, Panama and Costa Rica they failed their passengers in so many ways it is difficult to find any positives. Digging deep, I would say their hotel management and staff were comparable to some of the better cruise lines. Also, their evening entertainment and dining were top notch for a ship this size. However, everything else was a complete failure. On the first day out of Cartagena, the ship stabilizers and engines needed repairs. After a day at sea, they eventually fixed the engines but never quite fixed the stabilizers. They marketed satellite television and free wi-fi, but they did not fit the ship with the right antenna for television and their wi-fi could not handle 150 passengers. The wi-fi was so slow they gave free 24 hour access, but it took so long to use it most just gave up. They made no attempt to fix the satellite issue during the trip. Free tours were also marketed but there was only limited availability on these and many were left figuring out on their own what do in ports. The tours that we got on were not previewed by ship staff and they virtually had no idea what we were doing. A typical example is not knowing where to take tenders to so passengers would not need to wade ashore. A personal example is showing up at a 10 am departure with other passengers and watching the tender take off without us. They decided at the last minute they did not know a safe place to unload us so they had to go explore the shoreline while we waited. They came back and said the tide was too low to safely unload passengers and with a line of angry passengers, decided to look again. After an hour I called the ship's captain and asked if I could arrange my own boat to pick us up at the ship and he eventually took me up on that idea when the tender came back again and said it was unsafe to land passengers on the beach. He wisely chose to provide free local boats to all passengers and we eventually were able to do ashore. There were conflicts with locals hired to provide things like kayak adventures. On one occasion a kayak guide was so angry at our ship's representative that he took his kayaks and left. Many witnessed a ship's representative lash out at a lady passenger's complaint about the lack of planning and were clearly intimidated by his confrontational attitude. I could list 20 other examples of mismanagement but the bottom line is it was a mess. My advice is to steer clear of this ship with its current management and if you do go on one of their tours to do your research on tours ahead of time and arrange them on your own. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Pearl Mist Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 5.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.0 3.3
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 1.0 2.5
Family 2.0 2.5
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.6
Enrichment 5.0 3.6
Service 5.0 4.6
Value For Money 4.0 3.3

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