We decided to cruise out of Colon, Panama, because it was so different than the other Caribbean cruises. We figured we'd already BE in the Caribbean and wouldn't spend extra time traveling TO it. Flying into Panama City on Copa ... Read More
We decided to cruise out of Colon, Panama, because it was so different than the other Caribbean cruises. We figured we'd already BE in the Caribbean and wouldn't spend extra time traveling TO it. Flying into Panama City on Copa Airlines only cost about $400 each, the same amount it would have cost to fly into Florida. Panama City is good for a trip to the Miraflores Locks to see some ships go through the Panama Canal, and a tour to the Embera Indian Village (fabulous!). Other than that, there's not too much to see or do.
We took the local express bus to Colon to catch our cruise - $2.50 each, one way. Taxis wanted $80 one way. This was not a school bus, it was a large bus with decent seats, although completely filled with locals who use it for weekly travel. We got "looks" as we carried on our luggage!
Embarkation was very easy and fast - we boarded around 12:30. Lunch was in full swing. All the food on Enchantment was wonderful. There were different offerings for each meal, both in the dining room and in the buffet. Desserts were gourmet, and plentiful, with always some sugar-free (which tasted sort of chemically). The buffet tended to be very crowded, and at times it was hard to find an open table. We thought we were booking at a time when children were all back in school, but January/February is summer vacation in the southern hemisphere!! So we encountered yelling, screaming, running children frequently on the decks and in the buffet.
Spanish is the primary language on the cruise, which nobody told us about. If you think it's hard hearing loudspeaker announcements in English, you should hear them in heavily accented English; we never knew what was going on. We tried to play a game of trivia, run by a "bilingual" speaker - questions were fast and only read once, and we could only catch a word here and there. We couldn't make heads or tails of it at all. So we really couldn't partake of many activities; we ended up playing Scrabble most nights, to wonderful music in the Centrum - classical guitar, classical strings, big band, occasional singers in English and Spanish. The Scrabble games they had were all in Spanish - don't you think they could have provided ONE in English? They had 15 backgammon games available, 4 Spanish Scrabble games, 15 chess, 15 checkers, and a dominoes game. That was it. Couldn't they diversify and provide a few less of each of these, and add Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Battleship, and some other varieties, in both languages? So we played with a Spanish Scrabble board and did our best.
The two "Broadway" type shows were fabulous, and in English. I had thought the singing/dancing shows would be lame and Lawrence Welk-ish, but they were modern and taken right out of contemporary shows - energetic, fun, and up-to-date. They became our favorite activity! But on subsequent nights there was a comedy show and a magic show, and they were in Spanish, so we couldn't really participate, and left. Out of 2200 passengers, there were only 160 who spoke English. Wish we had known! We did okay, as my husband speaks Spanish fairly well, and I speak a little. We got along, but not enough to understand comedy shows.
The cruise staff was great - always helpful, always smiling, willing to do anything at all. Top rating to them! The dining room staff was also terrific and got to know our preferences quickly - very sharp! Beware in the buffet - they like to clean your table while you are still eating, and will take away anything that looks like you are done with it. If you leave to get more food, your silverware, napkin, and glass will be gone. We ended up always having one of us "guard" our table so that we still had one! Our stateroom was immaculate, with crisp, clean, white linens and a clean bathroom - no complaints there.
The ports of call were all very interesting, and were great for a cruise, as you probably wouldn't want to spend a lot of time in any of them. Colon was very scary, by the way - very poor and dilapidated. Go straight to the cruise ship when you get there.
The first port was Cartagena, and the Old Walled City is really interesting - lots of churches, old buildings, and the Palace of the Inquisition, with many old items of torture. It was $6 US entrance fee, and was great to walk through. The new city is very nice and modern. Great city! You will get hounded in the Old City to buy tshirts, sunglasses, jewelry, etc. every time you come out of a building or turn a corner. They will negotiate, however! (As an aside - for some reason, the purser doesn't change US$ to Colombian pesos, so you have to go through the trouble of finding a place to change in town and then change back, which is a hassle. In Panama and the ABC Islands, US dollars are either used or accepted.)
Not too much to do in Santa Marta, the second port of call. We did an excursion to Tayrona National Park, about 25 miles north, and walked through the rainforest to a beautiful overlook of the ocean. It was an hour or two of walking, though, so be aware of that. Very pretty.
The third port was Aruba. Very touristy town. We did an excursion to the Atlantis submarine, which got down to 131 feet. We saw a barracuda, many fish, and several reefs.
Curacao was our absolute favorite place - Willemstad is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and it absolutely delightful - great Dutch architecture; like a beautiful painted Dutch town transplanted to the Caribbean. It was very European and had some great deals.
On Bonaire, we took an excursion out to Klein Bonaire Island and snorkeled. It was a sand beach with lots of fish that came right up to you; as a protected preserve, they weren't afraid of being fished, so they were very calm and friendly. It was beautiful.
The last day is spent cruising all day back to Colon, and we just hung out and walked around. The gym is very well-equipped; we worked out several days, and it was great (the staff just needs to remember to unlock the doors when it is opening time!). There was a "cooking demonstration," but it just consisted of a guy making animals out of pineapples and other fruits (decorations). None of their quizzes or demonstrations lasted more than 15-20 minutes (the trivia quiz was cut short to "hurry along") - I guess they wanted to let you get back to drinking (drinks were expensive) or gambling.
All in all, I would recommend this cruise highly, and I would recommend Royal Caribbean in general. I would definitely cruise with them again. We got a great deal on the price. Read Less