Background: Madeleine and I were accompanied by her cousin Jean and Jean's husband John Campbell; the four of us cruising together for the fifth time. We introduced Jean and John to cruising by taking a roundtrip Inside Passage cruise to Alaska, in 1997, on the same ship we would travel on through the Panama Canal, RCI's "Legend of the Seas". This would be our ninth cruise and the Campbell's sixth cruise.
It has always been a dream of mine to transit the canal and that opportunity presented itself when I initially came across this cruise on the RCI website. What caught my eye was the combination of the ship and the itinerary. The four of us had thought the ship was wonderful on the Alaskan cruise and thought it would be a wonderful way to experience the Canal. I did some background research on the Canal and found that David McCullough's book "Path between the Seas" was an excellent source of the history and building of the Canal. I strongly urge anyone interested in the Panama Canal to read this book.
We booked about a year in advance through a local TA that has provided us with wonderful service and prices in the past. Being "Crown and Anchor Society" members, we received a coupon reducing the cost of the cabin and a senior citizens discount on top of that. We ended up paying significantly less per day than on a cruise in February 2003 on the "Voyager of the Seas". Watching airfares very carefully, we choose to book our air with RCI, although in the past we have made our own air arrangements on a number of cruises, and found that cost effective considering we had non-stop flights both ways.
Saturday, February 28th:
We left for Logan International Airport in Boston at 6:00AM via a limo. Arrived at the airport at 6:20 AM, used curb-side check-in and proceeded to the very long security lines inside. To our surprise, our departure gate was off to the right away from most of the other gates. Consequently our line to pass through security was almost non-existent. Through in a flash! AA flight #1361 left on-time at 8:15 AM and arrived in Miami at 11:15AM, a full 40 minutes early. We used the "Super Shuttle" for a quick transfer to the "Miami Intercontinental Hotel for the night.
After a nice lunch by the pool at the "Blue Water Café", we decided that we would meet in the lobby at 4:30 PM to walk to the Bayside Marketplace, with the idea to window-shop, people watch, listen to music, and have dinner in a restaurant. We did all of those things ending up for dinner in "Lombardi's". We had an excellent meal along with excellent service and would highly recommend it to anyone. We then walked around, rather rolled around, for awhile and then walked back to the hotel.
Sunday, February 29th:
We awoke to a very nice day with temperatures in the low 60's with a forecast of temperatures reaching the mid 70's.; certainly a big change from New England!! We joined the Campbells for very leisurely brunch in the "Indigo" restaurant and then went to our rooms to catch the bus to the ship which was scheduled to leave the hotel at 12:30 PM. Outside the hotel had become a marshalling area for a very large parade celebrating the fact that this was "Leap Day". Well, the parade also tied up traffic making our departure at 2:30 PM rather that the scheduled 12:30. "What, me worry??!!"
Check-in at the ship was quick and we were in our cabin (Cat. D, on deck 7, starboard side forward). We immediately headed for the "Windjammer Café" for sustenance. We knew, with a second seating for dinner, we wouldn't have any food until 8:30 PM; need to keep up the energy levels. After the life boat drill we joined the Campbells in the "Viking Crown Lounge" for a sail-away drink. To our surprise it was packed. Madeleine's explanation was that most of the passengers had sailed before and knew about our little secret.
Dinner was a lovely table (#117) of 4, located on the starboard side balcony section of the "Romeo and Juliet" dining room. Our waiter was Anil (Aneil) from southern India and his assistant was Maynard from the Philippines. It was obvious from the first meal that Anil was a superior waiter with plenty of experience. He was, by far, the best individual waiter we have had on any cruise. Maynard appeared to be very inexperienced and needed prompting from both Anil and another waiter that Maynard worked with. To his credit, Maynard did improve over the course of the two week cruise. Our head waiter, Ernesto, also from the Philippines was excellent, serving wine, clearing and serving where needed; a definite plus to the dining room.
Dress was casual for the evening and we went to the "Welcome Aboard Show" in the "That's Entertainment Theater", which is a one level room with excellent sight lines. The audience was introduced to our Cruise Director, John Blair; my wife and I found John to be an exceptional Cruise Director. After the show, "The Oscars" were shown on a large screen in the theater and also on the TV in the cabin. My wife and I watched the proceedings in the theater until 10:30 PM and then the rest of the show in the cabin. We noticed that the ship was beginning to move around a little as we sat in the theater; a hint of things to come. Last thing I did before retiring was to set my watch ahead by one hour per instructions of the ship. The next several days we would be on Atlantic Standard Time.
Monday, March 1st:
During the night I was awakened by the motion of the ship; things were beginning to creak a little. I was up at 6:30 AM and went out to get coffee that was available 24/7 on the Pool Deck, along with ice tea and lemonade. I then went to the internet lounge on Deck 8 but found that they were not functioning due to satellite troubles. Brought coffee and a pastry back to the cabin for Madeleine; a routine I followed for the rest of the voyage. Seas were quite rough with a very strong wind that would increase as the day worn on. The glass doors to the balcony were constantly wet from the wind-driven spray over the next two days. After breakfast in the "Windjammer", Madeleine and Jean spent a lot of the day reading and sleeping in the "Solarium Pool" area which has a roof that can opened/closed depending on conditions. The roof remained closed for the entire allowing it to be air conditioned; a blessing to some as we sailed closer and closer to the equator. John and I won a "Team Trivia" contest held in the "Schooner Bar"; our prize a coveted RCCL ballpoint pen!! We would enter every other trivia contest on the cruise in hope of getting a second matching pen.
The Captain announced everyday at noon our position, speed, and direction along with the present weather conditions and a weather forecast. At noon, today, the seas were running 15-18 feet with a wind out of the Northeast at 35 knots, partly cloudy skies and the ship cruising at 21.5 knots. He indicated that a strong high pressure system off the East coast of Florida was causing the conditions and the forecast was for it to continue into Tuesday. From experience, I have seen seas in the ten foot range cruising along the North coast of Cuba before and some roughness passing between Cuba and Hispaniola. Once into the Caribbean Sea it usually became calm.
Evening events were highlighted by Captain Hakan Lindegren's "Welcome Aboard Party" followed by a wonderful dinner. I had rack of lamb that was excellent, while watching the wine in my glass move about. Instead of going to the show, starring Freddie Roman, we enjoyed the music of the "Denise Canby Trio" outside the "Champagne Terrace" in the "Centrum" area. We found this trio and another group the "Foster Duo" to provide a wide variety of excellent pre and post dinner music. We called it a day around 11:15 PM
Tuesday, March 2nd:
During the night awakened by ship motion, this time some real pounding as the bow met the waves head-on. I assumed we were passing between Hispaniola and Cuba. Up for my morning coffee run I found very few people up-and-about. I went to the "Windjammer" for breakfast, as Madeleine had ordered breakfast in the cabin. My GPS receiver indicated we were some 70 miles off the coast of Jamaica moving along at 21 knots. I walked for three miles on the walking/jogging track on Deck #10. When I started my walk there was very little wind, but the ship was moving around some. By the time I finished my walk, 45 minutes later, the wind had picked up to a point where it was almost impossible to walk into the wind. Returned to the cabin, where my GPS indicated the ship had slowed to 18 knots. The Captain soon announced that Decks #5, the Promenade Deck, and Deck #10 were closed due to the rough weather. Seas were running 15-20 feet with winds out of the Northeast at 55-60 mph. The scheduled entertainment for the evening had been canceled and the substitute was the movie "Lord of the Rings - Return of the King" which would be shown in the theater and on TV.
I went up to the "Viking Crown Lounge" around 11:00 AM and found it deserted except for several of the crew who were cleaning and polishing. The view towards the bow was something. You could see wind-driven spray coming over the forecastle every so often. On one occasion, the bow hit a wave just right; causing a great spray of white water off the port bow. The wind picked up much of that spray and hurled it towards the stern. I had sat in the "Viking Crown Lounge" on many occasions, and thought it was too high above the sea to get hit with any water except rain. All of a sudden my view was almost blocked out as that spray hit the windows in front of me. The small number of people down on the pool deck below me got soaked with the spray. Went down to check on Madeleine and think about lunch. On my way to the cabin, I ran into a cabin attendant who had cabins down the way from us. He said that Lea was sick and that he would get to do our cabin as soon as possible. I told him not to rush as I thought we would be using the cabin quite a bit in the afternoon.
We went to the dining room for lunch which was opening seating for both breakfast and lunch. Not too many people in the dinning room. After lunch, Madeleine and I stayed in the cabin for most of the afternoon; reading and snoozing. John and I did make it to the "Team Trivia" for the day; placed third!!! Also noticed the difference in motion between our cabin on Deck #7 and the "Schooner Bar" on Deck #4; much less movement on Deck #4!!
Dress was "smart casual" for the evening. We enjoyed a cocktail before dinner listening to the "Foster Duo" at the "Champagne Terrace". Had a very enjoyable dinner, but noticed many people absent from dinner this evening. After dinner we listened to the "Denise Canby Trio" in the "Centrum". Went to our cabin around 10:30 PM; ship moving around quite a bit.
Wednesday, March 3rd:
We awoke to a warm, calm, clear day entering Oranjestad, Aruba harbor. We had breakfast in the dining room with Jean and John. We sat with very two interesting couples; one from Wisconsin and the other from the state of Washington. We had decided not to book an excursion, but to go out on our own and "play it by ear." It was a short walk from the pier to the downtown area, which was typical of most any port in the Caribbean; "Diamonds International" etc. John and I wandered around while Madeleine and Jean looked in several shops. After about an hour of walking and looking, Jean spied a "Dunkin Donuts" shop across the street. John and I left the ladies in the "Dunkin Donuts" while we went on a quest for a jeep. Found a reasonable rental of an a/c jeep for the day in a few minutes. Picked up the ladies and headed out exploring.
We headed out to one end of the island to towards the "California Lighthouse." Unfortunately we missed most of the hotel properties as we took a road somewhat inland from the beach. I found the area around "California Lighthouse" to be quite beautiful; the colors of the land in contrast of the ocean and the sky. Saw our first wildlife in the form of goats grazing in the brush and a number of small lizards scampering around.
We continued our journey, stopping at the "Casibari Rock Formations". Being a retired geology and earth science teacher, the landscape will tell a story. To my surprise, I found the large boulders that make up this area appeared to be a granitic type of rock, rather than the expected volcanic rock. My guess is that the large boulders are the result of a long period of weathering in this arid climate. Have to do some research when I get home!!
We continued on the to the natural bridge formations on the North side of the island. As we traveled the gravel road to the site, we passed a number of people on four-wheel ATV's moving along the gravel road in a cloud of dust, followed by a group of open-air jeeps lost in the dust cloud of the ATV's. Our a/c jeep rental looked better and better. The natural bridges were spectacular; made even more spectacular due to the large waves pounding the shoreline. Again I saw some more interesting geological exposures that caught my eye and mind, more research!! By this time it was close to noon, so we decided to head back to the ship for some lunch. Unfortunately we sort of got lost and didn't make it back to the ship in time for lunch. We had to settle for food at "Afternoon Tea" instead.
Balance of the afternoon was spent onboard, resting, swimming, reading, and playing another "Team Trivia" game; came in second this time!! We departed Aruba during our dinner, approximately 9:00 PM, bound for the Panama Canal in two days. Dinner was again excellent followed by listening to the music and watching people dance in the Centrum.
Thursday, March 4th:
Our third day at sea we were greeted to clear skies and a following sea of 10-15 feet with the wind blowing at 25-30 mph out of the East. We had breakfast in the dining room; sitting a table with a couple from New Jersey. Madeleine and I spent most of the morning on Deck #10, as most of the lounge chairs by the pool were occupied, while Jean read and John worked on another NY Times crossword puzzle and the daily trivia questions. We started out in the sun but moved into the shade fairly quickly as the sun was very hot. After lunch, Madeleine, John and I watched "Master and Commander" starring Russell Crowe" in the theater; the only complaint was that the theater wasn't darker enough; otherwise enjoyed the movie. We all met for "Afternoon Tea" at 4:00PM in the "Windjammer" We enjoyed drinks and music before dinner and a great meal.
By this time, we were forming somewhat of a routine: eating breakfast in the dining room, picking up the daily trivia questions in the Library, discussing trivia answers at lunch or dinner, going to Afternoon Tea, and swimming in the pool around 5:00 PM.
Friday, March 5th:
Today I was up at 5:15AM, awaked by light peaking between the drapes covering the balcony door. The light was a bright floodlight on a tugboat that was beside us as we made our approach to the Northern entrance to the Canal. Leaning out over the balcony rail, I could see in the distance lights marking the entrance; while behind and off to the starboard side were the lights of a number of ships. It looked like we were second in line to enter the locks. I quickly dressed and went up to Deck #10, thinking I would be one of the first to be on deck. To my surprise, there were several hundred people already occupying most of the vantage points on the deck. I think some people slept on lounge chairs overnight. I took a couple of pictures and brought coffee back to the cabin.
Over the past several days John and I had met two couples from Sheffield England while playing Team Trivia. Both husbands had served in the British Merchant Marine and had been through the Canal a number of times. They suggested for us to find a spot that had some shade, otherwise we would end up like a burnt piece of bacon. In addition they said the most thrilling aspect of passing through the Canal was the feeling of going up/down as you might on an elevator. That convinced Madeleine and me that the Promenade Deck would be our main observation point. On our Alaskan cruise in'97, I found that the Promenade Deck does "wrap around" the stern of the ship, providing us with a shaded and relatively unknown observation area as we passed through the locks.
We entered the first Gatun Lock at approximately 7:00 AM local time. We watched as small, man-powered "dories" transferred the steel cables from the eight "mules" (electric locomotives) to the "Legend." The mules would guide the ship through the locks, while the "Legend" provided the power to move forward. A large neon illuminated arrow pointed are way into the Eastern or left lock; while a large container ship was moving into the lock to our right. That container ship, the "Sealand Charger" would be right with us all the way through the Canal. Madeleine and I spent most of the next several hours watching our passage through the Gatun Locks on the Promenade Deck, particularly at the stern. The stern view gave us a close-up view of the opening and closing of the lock gates. We exited the Gatun Locks at about 9:30 AM and proceed to an anchoring spot on the Northern end of Gatun Lake to await permission to continue our passage southward. Both of the Gatun locks were being used to transport ships Southward into Gatun Lake. Ships were making their way Northward through the Miarflores and Pedro Miguel Locks in the same manner. Once those locks were cleared of Northward moving traffic, we would be able to proceed across Gatun Lake.
At approximately 10:30 AM we began to move slowly, maintaining about six knots, across Gatun Lake, part of a procession of several ships heading to the Pacific; passing a number of ships at anchor waiting to pass out into the Atlantic Ocean. The shores of the lake appeared to be a thick tropical rain forest doted with navigation signals. We passed a variety of ships, both large and small. Near the end of Gatun Lake we slowed down as we entered an ever narrowing channel. Passing by the Town of Gamboa, we came upon a small yawl rigged vessel of approximately 50 fee in length, heading to the Pacific. Onboard, were five adults, a young boy about ten years old, and a teenage girl around 14-15 years of age; not your Sunday afternoon sail. I wonder what wonderful adventure they were on? We also saw a long freight train of the Panama Canal Railroad passing trough Gamboa on its way to Colon, as several boats belonging to the Canal kept us company as we headed toward Gaillard Cut, the narrowest part of the Canal.
As we passed through Gaillard Cut, you could see where large debris slides had occurred in the past. In fact off our starboard side, we could see a crew of earth-moving equipment moving, what appeared to be, a recent slide. In addition there was a large mechanical shovel mounted on a barge that was loading rock and mud onto a large barge. We were told later in the day that Gaillard Cut is being widened to accommodate two-way passage of even the largest ships in the near future. Just before exiting the Cut, the new "Bridge of the Americas" came into view being built by a German construction company. When completed it will one of the largest "cable-stay" style bridges in the world; and provide the Panamanians with a much easier route to the Western part of their country than the present, much smaller bridge.
At approximately 1:45 PM we entered Pedro Miguel Lock beginning our passage to the Pacific Ocean. As we proceeded through the Pedro Miguel Lock and the Miarflores Locks, the process we had seen earlier was repeated; the only difference was the ship was lowered down instead of rising up. Dories connected the cables from the mules to the "Legend" and guided us slowly along. We exited the final Miraflores Lock, at about 3:30 PM and slowly sailed out onto the Pacific Ocean passing under the present "Bridge of Americas".
We dropped anchor off of Fuerte Amador about 4:30 PM, which is on an island at the end of a causeway built from debris taken from Gaillard Cut during the construction of the Canal to protect its Pacific entrance from storms. The Panamanian government has provided incentives for developing this area as an attraction for tourism. Madeleine stayed onboard while the rest of us went on an evening tour of the Canal; visiting the Miraflores Locks. The tour provided us with glimpses of Panama City, many of the old buildings in the "Canal Zone", and an explanation of the operation of the Canal. After returning to the ship around 9:30 PM, we all met in the "Windjammer" for a late diner followed by sampling the "goodies" at the "Sailing Out" party as we left Panama bound for Costa Rica.
Saturday, March 6th:
A wonderful sea day with a good breakfast, reading sleeping, good lunch, reading sleeping, afternoon tea, reading, swimming and an excellent "formal" dinner..
Sunday, March 7th:
We arrived at Puntarenas just before 7:00 AM. The town is built on a spit that projects out into the Gulf of Nicoya. There is a single long dock that projects out from the beach that runs along the shore in front of the town. John, Jean and I left the ship after breakfast for the "River Adventure Tour" that promised us a land rich for flora and fauna". After a 1.5 Hour ride on an air conditioned bus, we arrived at a location near the Tarcoles River that is South of Puntarenas. Our guide told us that we would have a chance to have a short "party" before we boarded the riverboat for our trip on the Tarcoles. The party consisted of the freshest pineapple, bananas, coconut, and watermelon you could imagine. They were also serving hot Costa Rican coffee, coke and orange soda, along with "Imperiale" a local beer. After a few minutes to relax and use the "facilities", we proceeded over a boardwalk for about three hundred yards to the river. Along the way, our guide pointed out large termite mounds that formed on the lower roots of many of the mangrove trees. We also saw many "mangrove crabs"; bright multicolored crabs that burrow into the mud along the river bank.
The Tarcoles River flows into the Gulf of Nicoya, and is a tidal estuary, with dense mangrove trees along its banks. Upstream, the mangrove trees change to a variety of tropical hardwoods when the river changes to fresh water. We headed downstream towards the mouth of the river, where the river opens out into a broad area of low grass and gravel bars. We saw many types of birds both in the air and on the ground. In the water were a number of saltwater crocodiles, ranging in size from several feet to almost twenty feet. We stopped in a number of locations, as our guide and boat driver pointed out many species of birds. There were a number of people onboard who were devoted bird watchers. They were in "watchers heaven." As we headed upstream, we made a number of stops looking at both animal and plant life along the way. Our guide seemed to be very knowledgeable about the area and did an excellent job of pointing out things to all of us and attempting to answer the myriad of questions that came up.
After about two hours on the river, we returned to the "party" for some more food and drink before returning to the ship. After getting back to the ship, we had lunch with Madeleine. She had an enjoyable day sitting beside "her pool" as most everyone left the ship. Madeleine decided not to join us as we went off the ship to see the town. Being Sunday, vendors of all sorts of crafts had put up tents along the walkway by the beach. The town was crowded with many people from the area along with people from the ship. We saw wonderful examples of products carved out of wood and leather, vendors selling different kinds of foods cooked on the spot, fresh fruit, and, of course the ever present tee-shirt table. It was an enjoyable walk along "soaking up the atmosphere". John offered to buy us each our cold drink of choice; mine was "Imperiale". After getting back to the ship, John and I went for a nice swim and then proceeded to shower and dress for the "casual" evening ahead. I took some pictures of the beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Nicoya as we departed right on time at 7:00 PM bound for Mexico. We all had a pre-dinner drink in the "Centrum, followed by a delightful meal. After dinner we enjoyed the music in the "Centrum" before retiring at around 11:00PM.
Monday, March 8th:
We spent a beautiful day at sea sailing along the western coast of Central America, with all the normal activities; eating, reading, walking, trivia, eating, and still more eating. The ship bounced around a bit at night, as we sailed across the Gulf of Tehuantepec; know for some rough water at this time of year.
Tuesday, March 9th:
We tied up at a brand new dock extending out into Santa Cruz Bay, Huatulco around 9:00 AM, and an hour earlier than scheduled. As advertised, we could see several of the nine bays that comprise the area from the ship. The land rises up quite steeply along the headlands dotted with homes and condominiums that separate the bays with their beautiful beaches from each other.
We walked to the end of the dock and took a taxi ($4.00) to La Crucecita, which is the actual town in the area. Huatulco, like so many other locations has been picked by the Mexican government as an area for tourism. Several people on the ship said it reminded them of what Cancun was like 25 years ago; still quite undeveloped and very pretty. It took us about five minutes to arrive at the plaza in the center of La Crucecita. Surrounding the plaza were a number of stores and restaurants along with a church that had, to our disappointment had been built in 2000. My wife wanted to see an old Spanish mission on this trip. Inside the church we found beautiful fresco-style decorations done in vivid colors. The center of the plaza was occupied by a formal garden area, with beautiful beds of flowers, a wide variety of shade trees, and in the center of the plaza a very nice bandstand.
After walking around the area for about an hour, we sat and had a cold drink. We headed back to the ship; having arranged for the same taxi to bring us back. At the dock, we turned to the right and walked about 100 yards across a beautiful beach and found some beach lounges with shade. This became our resting point for about four wonderful hours of sunning, swimming, and relaxing; all within 200 yards of the ship!! In retrospect, this period of time was, in my opinion, was the best part of the trip save passing through the Canal. We finally made our way back to the ship around 3:30 PM to have our lunch at "Afternoon Tea". We left Huatalco around 5:00 PM and sailed into a beautiful sunset.
Wednesday, March 10th:
Sailed into Acapulco Bay at sunrise and docked around 7:30 AM. After breakfast in the "Windjammer" we headed out on an excursion "Historical, Traditional and Picturesque Acapulco", a four hour tour via van. During the trip we visited the Hotel Flamingo high on the cliffs in the old section of town, drove along the Bay passing from "old" to "new" Acapulco, and climbed the heights of Las Brisas where we visited the "Chapel of Peace" and the "Trouyet Cross" before heading back to the ship. Our last stop was at "Fort San Diego" which overlooks the cruise facilities. The tour of the fort was very interesting, explaining the historical importance of Acapulco and the surrounding area going back to the earliest presence of the Spanish explorers. We returned to the ship around 1:00 PM for lunch and an enjoyable afternoon of sitting by the pool and going to a team trivia match.
That evening we met before dinner in the "Centrum" for a drink, followed by another excellent dinner. After dinner, we took a nice walk outside on the Promenade Deck looking at the city at night. The ladies headed to the cabins around, while John and I enjoyed the views as we departed Acapulco at 11:00 PM and the food at the "Pool Market" poolside.
Thursday, March 11th:
Another day at sea, sailing along the Mexican coast toward Cabo San Lucas, enjoyed by all. Madeleine attended Mass for the third time on the trip; conducted by a retired priest. She has found both the priest and the Masses wonderful. Late in the day, we heard about the tragedy in Spain; the terrorist bombing of the trains in Madrid.
Friday, March 12th:
We arrived and then anchored off Cabo San Lucas at 8:00 AM on a sunny, slightly cool morning. There were two other ships anchored nearby; the "Silver Wind" and the "Pride." John and I went on a whale watch trip which was not too successful; one whale and six or so dolphins. We saw many whales and dolphins from the ship on our days at sea, so we were not too disappointed. After walking around the tourist area and marina, we headed back to the ship in time for lunch.
We all spent the afternoon around and in the pool. The water was so delightful; Jean made her one "plunge" of the cruise into the pool that afternoon. Our last formal evening started by watching dancing and listening to the music, while enjoying a drink in the Centrum. After dinner, we tried to walk on the Promenade Deck but found it too chilly; a hit of things to come. We all retired early that evening.
Saturday, March 13th:
We awoke to find that it was quite cold on deck with a strong wind. We had a quiet last day at sea, performing the miserable task of packing early, winning another 'team trivia" contest and reading. I spent about two hours sitting out by the pool in a sheltered spot after breakfast. I wanted to see the "Parade of Flags" which is nothing more then members of all departments of the crew parading around the pool area carrying the flags of 46 nations represented by both crew and passengers. John Blair, our Cruise Director, was the Master of Ceremonies introducing a number of the crew and asking for a moment of silence in memory of those that had been killed in the recent Madrid bombings. He also offered the comment paraphrased here: "There have been two thousand plus passengers and crew, from forty six different countries on the "Legend" for two weeks. We have all gotten along; why can't the rest of the world do the same?" It was a somber moment that produced teary eyes of many in attendance.
In the afternoon we went to the "Passenger Talent Show" which was a definite surprise! There were five acts which were all very good entertainment and fun.
Our last evening onboard, included saying goodbye to many new passenger friends; our cabin attendant Lea, our waiter Anil, our assistant waiter Maynard, our head waiter Ernesto, and our favorite barman James Bong 00.5. We enjoyed for the last time the music of the Denise Canby Trio before dinner.
Sunday, March 14th:
I think a loud noise woke me up around 3:30 AM and too my surprise we were already docked in San Diego. I went back to bed a got up about 6:30 AM. Madeleine and I went up to the "Windjammer" for breakfast and met John and Jean in the "Crown and Anchor" Library to wait to leave the ship. RCCL had set up the library as a waiting area for "Platinum" and "Diamond" members of the "Crown and Anchor Society" to wait. They provided us with juices coffee, tea and an assortment of pastries to nibble on; very civilized. We left the ship around 9:30 AM and john went off to get a car he had rented. We were on the road about 10:00AM and headed out to Coronado Island with the idea of looking around the Hotel del Coronado. What a fantastic place!! We ended up having "Sunday Brunch" at the hotel, which was on the expensive side, but it was worth it!! After walking around the grounds, we headed north to La Jolla for the afternoon; we saw beautiful cliff-side homes and views, along with wonderful scenes along the shore. We all agreed that this area was a place we would like to return to some day.
We headed back south to the "Old Town Historical Park", where we walked around seeing the sites for awhile. We ended up eating in a very nice Italian restaurant in the area. We then drove to "Humphrey's Half Moon Inn" on Shelter Island, where we had reservations for two nights. We found the accommodations very spacious and clean and the grounds very delightful.
Monday, March 15th:
We had a very nice breakfast at Humphrey's and then headed out for Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument. It was a beautiful day, with very good visibility, and the scenery was eye-popping!!! The visitor center at the Monument is excellent, providing you with a wealth of information about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the west coast of the US and the history of the Point Loma area up to the present day. We walked to the famous Point Loma Lighthouse and to the large monument in memory of Cabrillo that overlooks the entrance to San Diego Harbor; where we saw a missile destroyer and a nuclear submarine departing the harbor.
We headed towards downtown San Diego and the "Gaslight District", but got diverted by a complex of very light colored buildings high on a hillside in the distance. We finally made our way to that area and found it to be the campus of the University of San Diego. I have been to many collegiate campuses over the years and this is the one I want to attend in my next life; it was spectacular.
We finally arrived at the "Gaslight" and wandered around for quire awhile before having lunch in an "authentic" Irish pub, "The Field." We had a very enjoyable lunch followed by some more walking around the area before heading back to Humphrey's for an afternoon siesta.
We headed back downtown around 5:00 Pm to "Seaport Village" to tour the shops and have dinner. We had no problem parking and found the place jumping. Being next to the convention center, there were many people attending a large convention walking over to the "Embarcadero" for an outdoor function. Madeleine and I found the village very delightful. We had a very nice meal at "Buster's", one of four full-service restaurants in the village. We headed back to the hotel; early wake-up for flight home.
Tuesday, March 16th:
We had an 8:30 AM flight out of San Diego non-stop to Boston. We were about an hour late taking off because of fog and haze. We had seen on TV at the hotel that the Boston area was supposed to get snow starting around 4:00 PM, our scheduled landing time. That hour delay in San Diego caused us to be in the thick of the snow when we got to Boston. We ended up being delayed and additional 1.5 hours in the air while other traffic landed or took off and they plowed the runways; we finally landed; late but safe at about 7:30 PM. Thanks to John, we had a limo. to get us safely home.
To me any cruise, no matter what ship or itinerary is heaven. However, this particular cruise was extra special. The Panama Canal was spectacular, the ports were very good especially Huatulco, the ship was superb, and my fellow passengers were delightful. This cruise ranks equal to and may surpass our cruise to Alaska; time will tell.