One of the best cruises for me and my wife
After approximately 20 cruises, we know what we like and what we don't care about. This was a low-key cruise, with plenty of sea days, good food and nice folks. Boarding was smooth, quick and easy, despite the presence of eight ships leaving from Ft. Lauderdale on the same day. The ship, itself, is nicely decorate and has the kind of public spaces we like -- comfortable bars and lounges, a card room, enough hot tubs, indoor and outdoor pools. We are in our 50s and enjoy meeting other people, but don't need to be constantly entertained or stimulated, so having time to read books, relax in hot tubs, and play board games was a great fit for us. I did not go to a single production show on the entire ten day cruise. Ports were nice -- Aruba was beautiful, but there just was not enough time. We were supposed to be back at the ship at noon, so it was impossible to fit in a leisurely lunch. There was also an issue with the time it took to get people back on the ship at Aruba (close to 1-1/2 hours) which I overheard a crew member tell a passenger happens every time in Aruba, so that is something which should be fixed. Overall, that was the worst thing to happen on the cruise, so you can appreciate that the cruise was pretty good. In Cartagena, we had a couple of additional hours (I believe all aboard was 2:30) although still less time than I would have preferred. The port area on its own is nicely laid out, with a lot of birds. If you need to get in some history and Christianity, there is a moment and a fort, but if we go again we will skip those places next time and use our few hours exclusively in the old walled city which was colorful, vibrant and fun. It was very easy to get a taxi from the port to the old city. The Panama Canal is an engineering wonder. Not pretty, but really interesting. Perhaps even more so if you read a history book about the Canal (which I regret I did not do before the cruise), but still quite something to enjoy without all the information that would complete the experience. We heard varying feedback from others about the tours off of the ship at the canal, which approximately 2/3 of the passengers took advantage of, but were quite happy to enjoy the ship that day. The port stop in Colon, Panama was of limited interest. I bought some hot sauce at the local supermarket, but the port area for cruise ship passengers feels like something of a safe area inside a war zone -- lots of armed guards and fences to keep the cruise ship passengers and locals away from each other. Limon, Costa Rica was a good port stop. If I could do it over, I would have chosen a different tour, as the Veruga Rainforest was underwhelming and a less than exciting one hour drive in each direction from the ship. Stops along the way, at a fruit stand and roadside to look at monkeys in the trees, were more interesting than the rainforest. We had a nice lunch in Limon, but that was really close to the port, not up near the rainforest. The final port, Grand Cayman, was beautiful. The weather helped. Again, we had to be back to the ship at 2:30, which was fine for me, but I could see that a couple of more hours might have been better for many passengers. Overall, the ship's atmosphere was right for us. Compared to most other cruise lines, there were fewer intrusive announcements urging you to buy something or play bingo. The free intranet, which allows passengers to contact each other by cell phone, is imperfect but a great idea which is quite an improvement on the use of walkie-talkies or leaving messages in staterooms. They had a nice tea service in the dining room many days. Seating in the dining room, apart from dinner, was always done to encourage passengers to share tables and meet each other (as opposed to many lines which permit you to share a table, but do not encourage the practice), so you get to meet more people. Highly recommended.
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