I have received a number of email messages while here on board the Summit. I thought I would answer all of them with a further amplification of what I had written earlier.
Incidentally, we just sailed from Cartegena (Columbia) on our way to Aruba. With considerable and unfounded prejudice, I had great reluctance to get off the ship before we arrived here. I half-expected people to be selling cocaine on every street corner and gun battles between the police and the cartel to be erupting in the street.
On the contrary, we found this place to be delightful to visit for a few hours. Even the street peddlers who surround you like flies around a dead horse are not that hard to take...again, for a few hours. They've got a lot to learn from the peddlers in Istanbul and Cairo.
I recommend a visit to Cartegena when the opportunity presents itself.
The questions I am being asked (I guess because I am still onboard), both publically and privately, seem to be asking me to corroborate or refute negative comments made by others.
So, here is what I have to say:
The food is terrific and plentiful. The service and the staff aboard the ship are first-rate. The ship itself is as nice as any on which we have sailed before, and that includes 20 cruises.
If you approach this as a vacation, not the purchase of a high-priced condominium in the country, not a religious experience, not the last vacation you will ever take...you will find (as they say) a cruise is like no vacation on earth.
The people who frequent these message boards (and I'm not one of them) seem to fall into three categories, as far as I can tell.
- Travel professionals
- People who just like to complain about this and that, lose their perspective about what a cruise vacation really is and what it can never be, are on some kind of mission to pillage and burn, are message board activists and get everyone all stirred up, and they do it all in writing.
- Newcomers who are alarmed by what they read from the activist complainers.
I believe my wife and I and our traveling companions are reasonably discriminating people, fairly sophisticated travelers (we've done a lot), and do not necessarily turn a blind eye to terrible service, awful food, disrespect and rudeness by service employees, etc.
In fact, we find the people working on board the ship are patient, caring people in what I feel is on of the crappiest jobs in the world. That is, having to tolerate and smile through assaults and abuse by these so-called disadvantaged passengers whom (like Andrew, I guess...and I don't know him) are prepared to head back to FLL as soon as the ship is underway and doesn't care who knows it.
One thing we do regularly is cover our ass when we travel. We always arrive in port at least a day before sailing. Consequently, our luggage has never been misdirected. I call the cruise line or the airline or the hotel a few days in advance to assure all is in order. I don't rely on third parties (i.e. travel agents) to look out for my interests because they aren't as emotionally caught up in my needs as I am.
I board the ship in the first few minutes that they throw open the gates and beeline for the maitre d' to make sure that if something in the dining room is to be negotiated, it is done in the beginning rather than after it's too late.
We wanted to eat in the Normandie restaurant (a great experience, by the way) on both Christmas night and on New Year's Eve. So while I was with the maitre d', my traveling companions were making reservations with the Normandie, again, as soon as the reservations guy was open for business.
I don't hate people because things don't work out to my satisfaction. I have a good awareness of what it takes to, again, cover my ass in the traveling game, and I take care of myself. Everything works for us 99% of the time. Why is this so? Just dumb luck? I don't think so.
Therefore, again in my humble opinion, even though there may indeed be some legitimate gripes about this or that, I think 95+% of most people tolerate this and move on from it and do their best to enjoy what they have.
It is the negative activists, especially on these kind of message boards who seem to have a need to stir the pot, get everyone all shook up, and have these terrible messages flying back and forth.
We were on the "coast-to-coast" train ride excursion from Colon in Panama yesterday. I thought it was very well done, and we had a terrific time. Some woman was waiting to board the bus behind me, and she gave me her unsolicited opinion that the excursion was terrible, a waste of time and money, and was going to go to the shore excursion desk and demand her money back. (Fat chance.) I just responded to her by saying that I'm just a simple unsophisticate and that's probably why enjoyed it so. I asked her to enlighten me so I would understand what I had overlooked. She looked at me kinda funny and moved away from me, never answering me.
Bottom line: Ignore activist complainers. They can get you down.
And thanks for your well-balanced opinion of the cruise you're on. Cartagena is a lovely city. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
We would go back in an instant.
I hate to be piling into your mailbox, thus am posting in public. It is WRONG, ladies and gentlemen, to hassle Paul or anyone else to corroborate or refute what someone posts. It's Paul's vacation. He can answer any questions we have when he returns. Give the guy a break.
I give Paul a high-five for taking the time to answer what's been going on. No reason he needed to. But what a fine thing to do.
But, Paul, you left out one category of people who post here. People who just plain love cruising and their joy in it. Not everyone has an agenda.
Paul, so glad you enjoyed Cartagena. We have been told some terrible stories and have mixed emotions regarding this port.
Smart of you to "take life into your own hands" with regards to cruising..."It's the ONLY way to sail".
Andrew's recent post ignored Pamda's questions, and, if I got it right, threw up the fact that he's a really big high roller. WHO CARE"S???
Thanks for your updates and smooth seas,
Being a high roller isnt bad...Deb and I are in a Penthouse our next cruise. We always travel 1st class. That way we are exposed to the riff raff in lesser accomadations as little as possible. But we never "show off" our wealth and make it a point to speak to at least 3 people in inside cabins during each cruise <G>.
Nice post, but I think you've oversimplified the categories just a tad.
Took the coast to coast train ride alongside the Canal early in the month and agree that it is excellent. Can't imagine what there would be to complain about. The really startling aspect of it is the unbelievably beautiful restoration job they've done on the rail cars. 50's vintage Pullmans for the most part, gutted out and redone in beautifully detailed redwood, with spacious plush leather seats and very nice tables. I love trains to begin with, and these cars knocked me on my butt.
You're right, many people complain just to hear themselves talk. Others do it to try to convince others that they're sophisticated travelers, when just the opposite is true.
Boy, that train ride sounds good!!! The rail cars are a far cry from the ones I used to ride when I was a kid living in the Canal Zone!!!! This was before and during World War II. Took the train from Balboa to Cristobal roundtrip to visit my cousin many times. In those days the locomotives were steam engines and the cars were plain with wicker seats.
Seems the Panamanian government has put the railway back into service. The last time I went through the Panama Canal in Oct 1997 on the Legend of the Seas, the railway was not running.
Yeah, it just started up again a few months ago, apparently now in private hands. One of the owners was actually on the platform shaking hands with each of us as we boarded, thanking us for coming to Panama, and wishing us a pleasant day.
According to the guide, they've also just started freight service on the line, in an attempt to compete for some cargo business with the canal itself.
So excited to read about R.R. in Panama. My husband and I have purchased excursion with Summit later in January. We really enjoy trains..have taken every VIA Rail trip except to Churchill.
Tell me, please, can you purchase refreshments on train? And, If so, what?
Also, I pulled up "panama railroad" on net and found some really inertesting info about it.