When I opened my eyes on day eight, we were docked at Colon.
The gangway was out and ready for the first people to leave the ship.
The process was as orderly and speedy as I hoped. At specified times we met in our predetermined locations. When our time came, we left the ship for the final time. All baggage was in the baggage area arranged by you disembarkation time. We walked down the aisle, grabbed the bags and went outside. It could not have been easier.
Now it is time to reflect on the past week.
What an outstanding get away. Since this was not my first cruise, I has certain expectations and they were all exceeded. But the differences in of this cruise, and others I have taken in the Caribbean, was what really made it special. I will talk about the differences later.
I think I had mentioned before, that it is my understanding that Royal Caribbean used this set of cruises as a trial run to see if there was really a market for a cruise ship leaving from Colon. From everything I saw, I think Royal Caribbean should consider it a success. If I understood correctly, they even have plans to bring in a larger ship in 2011.
I think all rooms were filled and I didn’t see a soul that wasn’t having a great time. Everyone I talked to raved about the entertainment and food. They marveled at the cleanliness of all the ports. Many said they looked forward to doing it again.
For differences, maybe it would be easier to reflect on them in various categories.
Embarking Disembarking: All other cruises I have taken have left out of Florida. I had to take an expensive plane to and from Florida and spend two nights in hotels in Florida. Everyone knows how painful it is to use the US airports. Then I remember the process of embarking and disembarking to be another painful experience. In my mind it seems like it was easily 1 ½ hours.
This was a piece of cake compared to Florida. Also not needing to have a US visa was an advantage to many on this cruise.
Latin Flavor: When I made the reservations, I really hadn’t thought about this being a cruise that was weighted toward Spanish speaking people. Thinking about it, it should have been obvious, but my previous experiences caused that to not even enter my mind. With 2,300 passengers and 95% from Spanish countries, what would you expect a cruise line to do. Luckily, 6 years in Panama have provided me with some rudimentary skills in Spanish and they were sufficient to get me by. For me this made the trip even more special. I got to meet and talk with people from Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Argentina,Venezuela, Ecuador and others. What a great experience.
Food: When you talk to most people you will always hear something about the food. I thought that all of the food was first class. I thought it was well prepared and courteously served.
Entertainment: Excellent is the only word to describe the entertainment on this ship. Singing, dancing, magic, comedy were all equal to shows I have seen in Las Vegas and Broadway. You could spend the entire time on the ship and have a great time. Some of the newlyweds on the ship may have tried to do this.
Service: This was second to none. Luisa, our waiter from the Philippines, was an amazing lady. She treated each person as an individual and really made you feel special. Our room attendant did the same, always smiling and starting your day off right. I didn’t meet a Royal Caribbean employee that wasn’t courteous and helpful in making your time with them special. This was like spending a week in a luxury hotel, but I have never been in a luxury hotel that made me feel so welcome.
Surprises: I guess realizing that my Limited Spanish was going to improve my enjoyment of the trip, was a surprise. Leaving the ship and being recognized by one of the Royal Caribbean employees from Chiriquí was a surprise. Meeting Nilka, mother of Giovy of Read and Relax in Boquete, was a surprise. Realizing that I could push away from the table without taking that extra bite was a surprise. I only gained about 5 pounds and that was part of the surprise.
Clean and Safe Ports: Knowing the history of Panama and Colombia, I was not surprised at the similarity in architectures. But seeing it with clean streets, courteous drivers and in a safe environment as opposed to Panama City was wonderful.
Meeting People: Meeting our evening dining companions from Venezuela and Panama City and Seattle Washington, was a great experience. Meeting the lady from Ecuador that took her 80+ year old mother on a vacation to a different place each year was heartwarming as was meeting the granddaughter with her 90+ grandmother. Latin American people seem to view their family as treasures and revere the time they get to spend together. Meeting the Latin American Shell oil executive that is now retired in Panama City gave us several nice conversations. And there were many others…
Time is your only problem: It is impossible to see and do everything. Port time is sufficient, but for some people, that want to see all of the cities and also visit all of the beaches and other attractions, it will be too short. Even on the ship you can not see and do everything. Many times I wanted to see something that conflicted with something else I wanted to do. But when you think about it, isn’t that the way with life. You have to decide how to spend your time to get the most enjoyment out of it. I have decided that one should not postpone the enjoyment of anything. You never know when you will run out of time.
There are probably things I will think about later that I should have written about or will wish I had written about, but I think I have covered the highlights. I tip my hat to Royal Caribbean for recognizing that there was a valuable market waiting to be tapped in Panama. They did their selves proud.
I hope you enjoyed this series of posts on Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas cruise leaving out of Colon. There were individual posts on Cartagena, Santa Marta, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire and the day at sea. I can tell you that I enjoyed gathering the material. Had I not been living in Panama, I might not have been able to afford this trip. I am now looking forward to planning other Latin American excursions.