Well I am here to say we had a wonderful trip. I have posted a review on the Members Review page - says it will be up in a few days, once they have reviewed it.
We have never sailed HAL before and chose it for the itinerary. We wanted to see the Panama Canal and to revisit Aruba and Curacao. We travelled with another couple who had sailed once before years ago with another cruiseline.
We had VF Verandah cabins on deck 5. Nieither of us had obstructed views. In fact, our friends (who didnt know their cabin number until we boarded) were put into an accessible cabin which was bigger, had a walk in shower and a larger verandah which we used daily for cocktail hour. We had the best seats for going through the canal, too. We each took a bit of wine on board and purchased more in Aruba. We had 4 sea days which we enjoyed. Since we were each celebrating our 30th anniversaries, we got formal pics taken on each of the 3 formal nights. We also got group pics taken the same nights. So here is a tip.. At the end of the cruise, we had several choices for couples and group pics, so we did the `buy 3 and get the 4th free`` offer and each came away and individual and a group picture. We know on shore we would be also paying a sitting fee so we felt we did well. The pics were great. The photo staff were very helpful and we never felt bombared with requests for photos as we have before. Disembarkation was painless, as was customs and our flight home. The entertainment featured Paul Tanner, Mysteriaque, Barnaby, Island Magic (incredible steel drum ensemble) and the Entertainment Crew who were fabulous.
We really enjoyed Richard Detrich's lectures. He is a great speaker and we learned so much about every area we visited before we landed. This program is a real asset to our travel experience.
The weather was perfect. The week before, the weather was rainy, the water wavy and people were ill. So we are are very grateful for the vacation of a lifetime. We are willing to answer any questions. Happy sailing.
I am sailing on the Zuidy April 8. Will we see the locks going into Guten Lake? We plan to get off to do an excursion and then meet the ship in Cristobel. I want to go through at least one lock so if we do the locks at night I might just stay on the ship. Also am at a loss with the excursions on Aruba and Curoceu-can't spell it or say it!!. Any advice-I have a 12 year old with me.
Everyone goes through the locks. Excursions on the panama leg leave from inside Gatun Lake. The ship will go back through the locks and passengers on the excursions are picked up at Cristobol. Passengers are not allowed off the ship at Panama unless they are on an excursion. there are wonderful excursions for all ages at Panama and Costa Rica. Arial tram at costa rica apparently was better than the Panama one. Got rave reviews. The Embura villiage excursion at Panama was really popular and we never heard anything about rave reviews. I dont know about excursions at Aruba or Curacao because we just get off and cruise around on foot. Panama and Costa Rica were our focus this trip. I am sure there are other travellers on here who can offer more info on those destinations. I think there is a message board on here just for destinations, so check that for Aruba and Curacao, maybe. On the Holland America web site, you can type in your destination and all the excursions for there will come up for you to read. Aruba etc. I found that very helpful.
We would do this itinerary again in a heartbeat. Just a tip... You are in the rainforest at Panama and Costa Rica. It will likely rain. You can pick up rain ponchos in a tiny package at your local buck store (get bug repellant too at home too) or you can just get drenched and let yourself dry in the breeze... the rain sometimes comes up so fast that by the time you get your gear on you are drenched anyway. Just go with the flow and enjoy.
Thanks so much for the reply. My major interest is Panama and Costa Rica too. I am busy reading McCullough's "The Path Between the Seas". It's a wonderful book to read especially before the trip as Panama comes alive and I can really understand the drama behind the Canal.
I'm probably going to go with the Embera trip or Gaten Lake Safari. If I was alone I'd go through the entire canal, but I have family depending on me.
Thanks again for the kind reply. Can't wait to go.
Thanks for the tip about the rain!
Regarding your possible choice of excursion to the Embera Indian Village, I can tell you it was AWESOME! We did it a couple of years ago and it was really a great tour - I would go again in a minute. Since you mentioned having a child with you, I will tell you, though, that the Embera Indian women were topless.
In Aruba, we did something a child would probably really enjoy. I can't remember the name of the excursion, but it was to some island (that is literally a stone's throw off the coast - 5 minute boat ride) and you could snorkel right off the island (snorkel gear included) and there was a small water park on the island (also included) that was really popular with the adults as well as the kids. Lunch was included and consisted of hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, etc., or a buffet if I remember correctly. It was a really nice relaxing day. Sorry I can't come up with the name of the excursion or island, but you can probably tell which it is from the list of excursions with this info.
I hope you have a great trip!!! You'll LOVE the canal experience!
Oh, thought of one more good one to tell you about - on one of our cruises that included Costa Rica, we did the Sloth Sanctuary which was really great. We got to see several sloths and pet and take photos with one. They also take you in canoes (which hold about 6 people including the guy who paddles you) down the river in the jungle and our guide/paddler spotted all kinds of wildlife for us - monkeys, iguanas, sloths, bats, and tons of interesting birds. It was beautiful. The sanctuary grounds are absolutely gorgeous with all kinds of tropical blooms and creatures roaming around!