Category Archives: Travel Related

Vacation Summary – In A Word “Fantastic”

I will make this initial post to use as an anchor to the future posts that will cover Lilliam’s and my vacation. Sometimes I get interrupted so the posts may not be contiguous and this post’s comment section will be used to connect to all future posts.

I haven’t put all my thoughts together on how to best cover the time we spent. There are so many elements to cover.

  • There is the 14 day Atlantic Royal Caribbean cruise from Colon, Panama to Palma de Mallorca, Spain. A one word description would have to be “Fantastic”.
  • There is the 2 days spent in Palma de Mallorca. Glad I didn’t immediately fly to Rome.
  • There is the 7 days spent in Rome. Again – “Fantastic”.
  • There is the 4 days spent in Madrid. Much better than my previous Spain trip.
  • Photos of interest
  • Observations relative to Panama
  • etc.

Living in David, Chiriquí Panama, I sometimes feel like I am on a constant vacation. The newness has never worn off since I moved here in 2003. There is always some new adventure and new people to meet. Being out of the U.S. rat race has been a real blessing.

That is why it always sounds strange to me when I say I just went on a vacation. Is it possible to take a vacation from a continuous vacation? Well, that is what I just did.

Over the course of the 27 days, I took over a thousand photos. Thank goodness for digital cameras. It would cost me a fortune if I were to develop that much film. The trick now will be to present enough photos to allow you to share our pleasurable trip and not so many as to bore you to death.

The return flight was 10 hours and 20 minutes according to the timer I set. The flight schedule was to leave Madrid at 1:50 P.M. (Madrid time) and arrive in Panama at 5:20 P.M. (Panama time). The flight was scheduled to take 10 hours and 30 minutes and we beat it by a few minutes. My body is just starting to adjust from the time difference.

I returned to a few tasks that I need to do and will post the trip as fast as I can. I can’t imagine having had a better time than I had. My assumption is that Lilliam feels the same way.

Before I Start

Before I start on a recap of our vacation, I want to cover one item, so that it doesn’t distract from the other descriptions and evaluations of the trip.

As you may remember, I had a rather deflating experience prior to leaving. When I canceled the passage for Natalie, that Royal Caribbean staff had said would be refundable if insurance were purchased, I was told that I would not be reimbursed by the insurance provider.

When I boarded the ship and got settled in, I made an appointment to talk to the ship’s manager on deck five to discuss the problem.

The individual listened to my problem and said he would see if there was anything he could do. I met with him one morning and I received a call from him about 5 P.M. In the afternoon. He said that Royal Caribbean would be refunding 75% of the price of the passage in cash and the balance would be in a credit toward a future trip. I said this would be fine.

He said he also wanted to do something nice because of the problem and asked if Lilliam would enjoy a session at the spa. I said that would be nice and he told me to schedule it and they would be expecting my call. Lilliam enjoyed her pampering and I will try to cover that as a part of the 14 day cruise writeup.

While I am still awaiting for the refund to be fully canceled, I am confident it will be and am most appreciative of the way in which Royal Caribbean handled the matter.

Since that was a negative event prior to the trip, I didn’t want its discussion to distract from the positive things I will have to say about the actual voyage.

Other Trip Preparation Items

I think I have taken care of all the pre-boarding items now, in preparation for the April trip. I did order four things that I will pass on. I ordered the RFID passport and credit card carrier, as I had mentioned in a previous post.

I also decided to order two items for my camera. I know a lot of people prefer to take pocket cameras on trips because of the convenience and the less risk of theft. However, I bought my camera to take photos and I intend to take it. The camera bag I bought, with my camera, has not been satisfactory. Some of the straps are needing to be better connected to the body of the bag.

This caused me to do a little researching into camera bags and I found some products put out by a company called pacsafe.

After reading about pacsafe, I decided to order two items. A camera strap, and a camera bag. The bag I ordered is black, but I did consider the green one.

If you look at the pacsafe products, you will see that they are specifically designed to protect against pickpocket type thieves. Obviously nothing is 100% safe, but after reading the descriptions on these products, I decided they were worth a try.

I downloaded a app for the iPad called Travel Tracker Pro. Expensive as far as iPad apps go, but after reading many comments on how well they have provided service to the program, I bought it. It allows you to build an itinerary and track all expenses on the trip. It will also convert Euro expenses into other currencies. This is just another thing you can do with an iPad that you can’t do with a Kindle.

I noticed that one of my credit cards expires in May, so I called the company to have them send me a new card sooner. It would have gone crazy finding myself in Spain with expired credit cards. I know, because this happened to me once in the past.

I made a entry on my calendar to call the credit card companies, a week before we leave, and tell them to expect charges outside of Panama. Now I am about ready to do the other things I hate to do this time of year and that is get ready to file the tax return. If I get everything under control, I may even may a Panama related post soon. Coming to think of it, I guess some of these items would be good for people coming to visit Panama to consider.

Researching for the trip

As always I tend to over research things. I will pass on some things I am researching and some things I have found from the travel book recommendations.

I am using Rick Steves books for both Rome and Madrid. I am sure there others that are just as good, but I happened to download these.

Having traveled in Europe before, I am well aware of pickpockets. Today I have been searching for security wallet for passports, IDs, credit cards and money. I doubt that you will find any travel guide that doesn’t drill the need for security wallets into your head. If you have seen these for sale in Panama, let me know where.

One thing that the travel guides have not mentioned is that your passport and your credit cards may have RFID chips in them and while your pocket may not be picked, the information might still be picked.

I just rechecked my current credit cards and one does have a RFID chip. It also happens to be the one I may use the most. Therefore I have two items that need RFID shields. The one credit card and my passport.

I knew this, but had forgotten it until I saw it on some of the security wallets. Most of the security wallets don’t protect you from RFID theft. Most are wallets or pouches that are designed to go around the neck, hung on a belt and tucked into your pants or worn around your waist and under clothing.

Another thing I was reminded of while reading the books is that credit card companies need to be notified prior to your trip to avoid your charged being declined and a call being made. I put a reminder on my calender to call them a week before my trip.

Another good tip I found, from previous trips, is to keep a itinerary and contact information in each of your bags. If the airlines happen to lose a bag, you will want them to be able to get in touch with you and if you are traveling, that might be hard to do without an itinerary.

I realize that I am a long way from the travel date, but I hate to not have things planned out.

The Planning is Done

I literally spent 11 hours yesterday planning and making reservation for the rest of the vacation we will take toward the end of April. I was a little slow on making the air reservations and over a day’s time the fares increased by $200. I made the air reservations first and then made the hotel reservations in the order of the air reservations.

Finding and deciding on which hotel is what took so long. It was interesting to see how many hotels were already full in Spain and Italy for May. I felt like I was scrambling against an invisible opponent (time). Funny thing is, I thought three months in advance was a lot of time to plan.

However, at 10 PM last night I got the last reservation made. I downloaded two of Rick Steve’s guide books into my iPad. One for Madrid and one for Rome. They were pretty vital in helping to research the hotels. They will also be useful on the trip. The Internet was also vital for reading all the comments by others that had spent time in the hotels. I can’t imagine doing anything without the Internet now.

I think I will have Internet access most of the time I am in Europe. However, since I only plan on taking my iPad, any real posts about the trip will occur after my return. That means, for all practical purposes, Chiriquí Chatter will go dormant for about a month. I may be able to make a few text only posts and I should be able to respond to comments and reply to emails.

The trip should be a good experience. I haven’t told Lilliam that the return flight is over 10 hours. She may not board the plane. 🙂

Getting There Is Half The Fun

I have just made reservations on the Royal Caribbean Cruise going from Colon, Panama to Palma de Mallorca Spain. I made the reservation through Jularmo Travel & Tours in David.

Larry Mathew’s post, last week, sparked my interest and I decided I had to do it. Now that I am confirmed on the cruise, I am working on the second part of the trip.

I felt if I was going to be in Europe, I might as well spend a few more dollars and see some more sites. My plan is to spend a couple days in Palma de Mallorca and then fly to Rome. I will stay in Rome about a week since I have never been there before.

Then we will fly to Madrid and spend three days. I have been to Madrid in the past and therefore a week is not necessary. From Madrid, we will return to Panama and rest up from the vacation. It will be two weeks on the cruise and about two weeks in Europe.

I am currently researching the hotels in Mallorca, Rome and Madrid. The next thing I need to do is find a converter for the electrical items I am going to take. I am expecting this to be a fantastic vacation. I am hoping for no mishaps.

Jularmo Travel & Tours

I have recently changed travel agents in David. I am now using Jularmo Travels & Tours. They are relatively new in David and have offices in Panama City as well. Their office in David is close to the Hotel Best Western and across the street from Dr. Barraza’s dental office.

Here is a photo of the front of the office.

If you contact Jularmo Travel & Tours, tell them you learned about them on Chiriquí Chatter.

Continue reading Jularmo Travel & Tours

RCCL Update From A Fellow David Blogger

I received the following email related to the RCCL Cruise I took back in 2009. I thought the updated information might be of interest to others. Thanks to Larry for sharing.

Don:
I share your enthusiasm about the Royal Caribben cruises out of Colon. Thought I would share with you my experiences with RCCL.

At the end of RCCL’s first season out of Colon they took the ship (Enchantment of the Seas) back up to Fort Lauderdale in April 2009 where it operated for the next six months for what they refer to as the ‘Florida season’. The repositioning cruise was an 8 day blast! It followed the same itinerary – Colon; Limon, C.R.; Cartegena and Santa Marta, Colombia; and Aruba. But, when it left Aruba, instead of returning to Colon, we sailed for two days to Fort Lauderdale. Continue reading RCCL Update From A Fellow David Blogger

COMUNICADO de Aero Perlos

COMUNICADO

Por este medio les informamos que a partir del 14 de noviembre de 2010 aplican los siguientes cobros en Aeroperlas REGIONAL:

  • El cobro por cambio de nombre, cambio de fecha o reemisión pasa de $7.50 a $10.00 + ITBMS
  • Cobros por exceso de equipaje será de $1.00 por libra adicional + ITBMS
  • Política de equipaje para segmentos que originen o tengan como destino BOC y DAV 30 libras, mientras el resto permanece en 25 libras.
  • Los pasajeros que compren un solo boleto internacional que incluya la porción PAC DAV, DAV PAC, BOC PAC o PAC BOC tendrán derecho a una franquicia de hasta 70 libras, dividido en un máximo de 2 maletas.
  • Cobro por PETC “pet on cabin”  (perros lazarillos en cabina) cambia a $30.00 por vía + ITBMS
  • Cobro por transporte de tablas de surf cambia a $30.00 por vía.

Agradecemos de antemano la atención prestada y quedamos a sus órdenes para cualquier aclaración adicional que usted requiera.

Saludos,

Rolando Pereira

Gerencia Comercial

Aeroperlas REGIONAL

Road Conditions in Costa Rica

The following link was posted on a Yahoo group and shows the current road conditions in Costa Rica.

http://www.transito.go.cr/estadorutas/index.html

I tried and could not find a comparable site for Panama, but couldn’t. Here is the transito site for Panama

http://www.transito.gob.pa/

The airport for David was shut down for two days and based on the way it looks not in David, flights wont be happening this morning at least.