We arrived at pier at about 12:30 PM for embarkation. There was a long line but it moved quickly into a large waiting room where we sat until our number was called to go up to the counter for check-in. There was an unusual delay because the ship had a Coast Guard inspection that morning we were told. Check-in went smoothly and we were issued our sign/sail cards and off we went.
Due to the delay in boarding, we missed the Mariner embarkation lunch in the Vista Dining Room. The DR is only open for lunch from 12-1PM daily. We went up to the Lido and braved the masses for lunch. It was the usual embarkation day madness.
Staterooms were available by 2PM so we went to locate ours which was on Deck 6 forward right near the elevators. This turned out to be very convenient during the cruise. We had a verandah cabin.
The ship sailed promptly at 5PM. We were scheduled to be at Half Moon Cay the following AM but the Captain decided to scratch the visit upon arrival. He claimed it was because of the wind/current conditions, but many of us felt he wanted to get moving to avoid Hurricane Tomas which was approaching our route. The Captain sailed north on the Dominican Republic and made the passage between the DR and Puerto Rico. This avoided Tomas and took us straight down to Aruba giving us an extra sea day. The weather was cloudy with showers for the first few days, leftover from Tomas.
Arrived early into Aruba so tours were added. It was a gloomy day in Aruba until late in the afternoon. Having been there before, we remained on the ship. Our cabin looked over the town and harbor so there was much to observe. Folks who took the Palm Island excursion said it was like a water-theme park and were disappointed. We sailed for Curacao as scheduled and arrived early the next morning. There were many who took excursions and returned to the ship in the afternoon pooped out from their day. We walked around town, had a little brunch in a local spot while waiting for some jewelry to be sized (had to shop!).
After another sea day, we entered the breakwater to the Panama Canal at 5:30 AM. Many were up and eagerly awaiting our passage. There was a guide on board who explained the process as we proceeded through the locks. It was a beautiful sunny day so that improved the whole experience. Once through the 3 locks, we anchored in Gatun Lake to off-load guests who were on excursions. They would eventually meet us back in Colon after their tours. The ship then weighed anchor and passed back through the locks. This was more interesting since we had a ship in the lock next to us and we could really see the workings. We proceeded on to Colon where we docked to await the arrival of the rest of the passengers. There is a little duty free shop and across the street some shops and a restaurant or two. Nothing much to speak of and you are encouraged not to venture too far away.
We left Panama and headed to Limon, Costa Rica. Here we took an excursion to a banana plantation followed by a canal cruise. It was interesting enough, but you only need to see a banana plantation once in your life. The canal cruise was OK but I see more wildlife in my own backyard here in SW Florida.
I will continue this post with details of shipboard experiences later today.