We were served a breakfast of Rice Krispies along with the usual fare of soft drinks and coffee. The flight was very nice, and security was crisp and professional. We arrived in Houston for our 1.5 hour layover with an additional 15 minutes to spare.
The trip to San Juan was also pleasurable, the plane transfer went well, and Bettyann was able to do a little shopping along the way without feeling rushed.
When we arrived in San Juan we were met my a Royal Caribbean representative, who herded us to the ground transportation for the transfer to the ship. The trip took about half an hour and we passed through old San Juan. Boarding was quick as most passengers were already on board. We actually arrived too late for dinner, but could have taken in the show if we wished to. Instead, we unpacked.
We went to dinner at the Windjammer buffet at about 10:00 PM and Bettyann had prime rib, and I had beef brisket. After eating, and after such a long day, we retired for the night.
We had breakfast at the Windjammer Café (a breakfast buffet). The formal dining room also serves a sit down breakfast if you don't mind spending over an hour eating. As Saint Thomas Island is so famous for shopping we were anxious to begin. However we don't normally eat a formal breakfast, except perhaps once on a trip.
The taxi fare to the shopping district was $3.00 a head each way. The humidity was very repressive in the 80 degree temperatures that we encountered. However it's difficult to be too uncomfortable when your hopping from one air-conditioned jewelry store to another. This turned out to be the perfect place to purchase a lovely princess cut blue sapphire ring with accent diamonds for Bettyann's Mothers Day gift.
We returned to the ship about 1:30, and had originally planned to go to the shopping center near the dock, which remained open later. However we decided that enough was enough for one day so spent the rest of the day on the ship.
After a short nap we went to our Assigned early dining at 6:00 PM. There was some table confusion as we didn't make dinner last night, and a family moved more or less together at the table. We reassigned to another table, and hopefully this is where we will stay for the duration of the trip. Our table mates all seem nice, and are all from the US.
The show was about an hour after we finished eating. Tonight the Drifters preformed. They were popular in the 60's. All the original performers were still together, and they put on a really nice show singing their hits from that period.
After the show we went to the midnight buffet in the Windjammer, then off to bed.
We spent time on deck taking in a bit of sun, and lolling around in the sauna on the open pool deck. It was a good opportunity to take some pictures, and have a beer at the pool bar.
Today was a formal night, so we returned to our stateroom early on to begin getting ready for the Captains welcome cocktail party. This took about an hour, and we met the captain, and the rest of the officers. He talked about the ship, the forecasted weather, and other subjects concerning the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
After the party, we went to dinner, and almost everyone had the beef fillet. Dinner is always a big affair, wither it's formal or casual. Our tablemates are all very interesting. We have two pilots, one retired from United. A substitute teacher (who's a retired graphic designer), and a machine maintenance logistics engineer.
After dinner we went to the show as we often do. Tonight's show was a Royal Caribbean Production starring the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. The singing and dancing was great, and the show lasted about an hour.
We took a formal tour today called Town and Country. We took the afternoon tour so we could sleep in, but we were up early anyway. This bus tour took us to the Ale Vera Factory, where they make skin products from the Ale Vera leaves. We purchased some of these products so we should have wonderful skin again soon. This leaf is from a cactus, strange as it may seem, two thirds of the island is desert and looks strikingly like the Arizona landscape around Phoenix.
The second stop was at a natural rock garden, which was caused by a sea eruption some millions of years ago. It was very nice, and I managed to take too many pictures, as usual. And our third stop was at the sea shore where a natural bridge was carved into the rocky shorescape by the relentless sea. The tour took about three hours, then we were taken back to the ship.
We walked to a large shopping area, and spent a couple of hours shopping for souvenirs. We returned to the ship in time for dinner. As we move south, the weather is getting warmer, and the humidity seems to be climbing. It was very hot and humid on Aruba.
We went to the evening show, which was a Mime show by Yacov Noy. He was really good, and started his act with a three legged man segment. It was done so well that it was impossible to tell which leg was the fake one.
After the show there was a midnight Caribbean party and buffet up on the pool deck. Instructors taught Caribbean dancing, and of course the pool deck band is primarily Caribbean anyway. It was a high energy evening, and we both participated in the festivities. The buffet was way too much after a formal dinner, but God help us if we should miss a free meal on a cruise, so we had flank stake.
We finally got to bed a little after 1:00 AM.
This was a casual day, and we lounged around the decks. It's country and western attire today, and there is a hoe down at 10:30 tonight in the Safari Club. We generally miss this event because the band is ill suited for ship kick'n music.
Bettyann shopped the on board sales and bought some T-shirts and things. There are a lot of bargains right here on the ship, much like you would find at a Meryven's end of the month sale, and excellent quality.
Later there was a cooking demonstration with the cruise director, and two of the Serenade of the Seas Chefs. The demonstration was on making apple strudel. Of course the cruise director acted the clown, and did everything wrong. It was a lot of fun to watch, and had we paid attention we could have learned how to make apple strudel ourselves. Although we still think we prefer Fry's apple strudel, when the craving strikes.
Bettyann ran into Cindy, and they went to the art auction together. Here again, bargains are all over the place. Bettyann purchased a Thomas Kinkade piece titled Perfect Red Rose. In addition she won a free piece titled Summer Enchantment. Both pieces are beautiful, so I guess I'll just have to build a wall in the middle of our family room so we have a place to hang them.
One of the ladies (Marsha) at dinner is collecting personal information from everyone, and then intends to hand it out. This set me to thinking, I've taken photos of everyone, and with the information provided by Marsha I might be able to do something to combine the two.
Using my laptop computer, and Picture-it, I was able to produce a picture file that can be processed on board as a 4X6" glossy print for 40¢ each, or two bucks for the lot.
Our ship fit the locks with 2 feet to spare on each side, and about ten feet at each end. The ship is pulled through the locks by a locomotive (mule), and not under its own power. We went through with another cruise ship ahead of us, and an oil tanker along side of us in the second set of locks. Each lock raised us 70 feet.
It takes some time to go through the locks, and about eight hours to go through the entire Panama Canal. The cost of passage for our cruise ship was about $280,000, or about $140 per passenger. The lowest fee ever paid was 35¢ by a swimmer who swam the canal.
After the first set of locks, we went for breakfast, and then returned to our stateroom for a nap. Because breakfast was quite late, we skipped lunch.
The ship went through the second set of locks before dinner, and headed for port at Panama. Because we couldn't dock there, we were to be tendered (transport by motorized life boats) to shore.
Dinner was very good and consisted of leg of lamb, with baked Alaska for desert. Everyone was anxious to go ashore, and the tenders were ready about half an hour after dinner. Of course it was nighttime, and dark. We had to be back onboard by 10:30 PM so had scant time for shopping. Things were quite reasonable in Panama, as an example, a can of Old Milwaukee beer was 50¢.
We arrived back to late for the show, which was a singer Jacqi Michaels. I caught part of the late show, but didn't stay long. It had been a long day, so we had a night cap, and retired for the night.
After a light lunch in the Windjammer Café, Bettyann went to another art auction, and lord knows what she will bring home this time. The mailing tube for artwork will accommodate five pieces, so that's going to be her limit (I hope). Well, it turns out that she didn't purchase anything, but did win a drawing for a nice piece of artwork. This win will be added to her accruing art treasures acquired aboard.
We spent most of the afternoon taking pictures and hanging out on deck. At 3:30 PM there was a talent show in the main show room theater. Of the four acts that signed up, two of them were singers from our dining table of five couples.
After the talent show it was time to get dressed for a formal evening. Prior to dinner, we were invited to a cocktail party for Crown and Anchor Society members. We've been members since our first cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship. The party was a very nice addition to a day at sea.
For dinner we had leg of lamb, and took lots of pictures. The little ditty that I did for the other members of our table turned out better than I expected. Marsha did all the research, and of course, I already had the pictures. The actual work took very little time on my part, and the results were spectacular. The pictures were processed at the on board digital photo center. These were all handed out this evening at dinner.
We had an hour before the evening show, which featured a Guitarist and Singer Mario D'Andera. This gave us a chance to change into something more comfortable and have an after dinner cocktail before heading up to the theater.
Mr. D'Andera's show was so spectacular that I was toying with the thought of catching it again at the later showing. This didn't come to pass because we were both tired, and I wanted to process the day’s photos, before retiring.
There are several tours going into Costa Rica, but the nearest destination is two hours driving time away. We opted to stick closeto the ship, and explore our immediate area around the pier. We found a wonderful shopping area that was an outdoor market place strung along the beach. There were bikini-clad maidens galore, and handy café's that served a great local beer to quench our collective thirsts.
We were able to purchase everything that we had hoped to find at the more expensive specialty shops in faraway towns. There was plenty of wood items, some made from all the different types of wood found in this area.
We even had time to spend on the beautiful sandy beach, and Bettyann even had the opportunity to play in the ocean a little bit. The water was very nice and warm, but salty. Unfortunately she didn't have a bathing suite on, so had to settle for just her feet going swimming. Meanwhile I kept busy with my camera.
We returned to the ship, and had lunch aboard. The afternoon was spent on deck drinking coffee, and taking in some sun. Afterward we took a short nap before dinner.
For dinner we had salmon, and it was excellent. In fact Bettyann had two servings. We both like salmon very much, and often cook it at home. I had some chocolate bread pudding for desert, and Bettyann had sugar free strawberry short cake.
The show this evening was a bit heavy. It was a Virtuoso Pianist by the name of Tian Jiang from China. He was an excellent pianist who played complicated classical compositions for our pleasure. He is going to have another concert tomorrow at 3:00 PM for people that preferred deeper classical selections. I've got a feeling that I might be unavailable for that one.
The big attraction for today is the Midnight Chocolate Buffet which begins at 11:30 PM. It was a wonderful display of everything imaginable chocolate. There were carvings made out of pure chocolate, as well as ice sculptures. We took some pictures of this gala event, and then we each sampled a small piece before leaving the buffet. Bettyann returned to the room to read, and I went to the Windjammer on deck 11 for coffee, and to read my book on the open deck. We went to be about the time I usually get up to walk the dogs in my other life.
Each evening the cabin attendant drops off a four-page publication with all the activities for the next day. This is a good thing as there are so many activities to consider, many overlapping others.
After breakfast we spent time in the whirlpool, and laid around on deck chairs and entertained ourselves reading our most interesting books. I sat in a more shaded area near the coffee dispenser.
It was a leisurely morning, and by 1:00 PM we were hungry, and sufficiently dry to eat lunch in the Windjammer Café. We needed to step things up a bit as there was yet another art auction this afternoon to attend.
Bettyann attended the art auction in the afternoon, but didn't purchase any more pieces. She is entitled to a freebie for attending however. And, naturally another drawing was held for which she qualified; unfortunately she didn't win anything this time.
Tonight's dinner attire is "smart casual", whatever that means. In any event dinner is always a nice time of the day. Our table is almost always the last to leave the dining room, partly because of our seating location, but mostly due to socializing.
What a wonderful show they had this evening. Fireworks on Four Strings, Dynamic Violin Virtuoso, staring Maria Neglia. Her show was superb. The violin she used was a hand-me-down from her Grandfather, and was actually made by the person the learnt that Stradivarius feller how to make them. She said it had once been appraised at $35,000 so it's one expensive fiddle.
After the show, Bettyann retired, and I went to the pool deck and read for an hour or so. I recently finished Disclosure by Michael Crichton, and am now reading The Brethren by John Grisham. Both were and are very good reads. Bettyann is also reading, but I don't keep track of her books. Shortly thereafter, I also retired.
After we returned to the dock, it was just a $2.00 cab ride into the shopping area of town, where we spent the rest of the afternoon, at least until it was time to return for dinner. This was a no brainer because the ship left at 5:00 PM, a whole hour before dinnertime. We had fun shopping, and Bettyann managed to find several things to buy. After a few more trips like this we should be able to open our own eBay store.
Dinner is casual tonight with a 50's and 60's flair. Dinner wasn't anything exceptional tonight, except it was gourmet, of course with several entries. It's just that nothing spectacular seemed to jump out from the menu this evening. So we both picked the halibut, and were we pleasantly surprised. It was absolutely delicious.
The ship employs over 200 chefs, which prepare approximately 16,000 meals a day including those of the crew. There are over 2000 guests aboard as well.
The show tonight was pretty bad, Alturo Shelton was a singing impressionist; and his show was the worst so far. All the shows have been very good; although other cruises have had a better line-up with better shows. This is only a personal opinion from past cruise experience. Guess they can't all be the best.
The friends of Bill W. are having another meeting tonight. He must be a pretty popular Guy, although I don't know him.
I read my book at the solarium pool until I was tired enough to go to bed.
After a nice beakfast, we went ashore with plans to hire a car with four friends that sit with us at the dinner table (assigned seating). We wanted to see the cliff divers, as well as the sites in and around Acapulco. We were able to find a car and guide with very little effort.
He drove us to all the high points, and unlike a bus tour, stopped for pictures anytime we asked. We saw two of the best hotels overlooking the city and harbor. He knew of places where a bus couldn't possibly have gotten in. We saw the local market, and he took us to the Acapulco Bazaar, and the black market. I had the opportunity to purchase popular and classic Mexican music singers in MP3 format. This is easily transferred to an ipod for playing through any type of entertainment center with a line input.
We went to the 1:00 PM performance of the cliff divers, the admission was only $3.00 a head, and included one beverage. As Bettyann had her water with her, I had used her ticket as well and had two beers during the performance. Actually it was 90¢ less than two beers on board the ship.
After the tour, which took about four hours, we shopped near the pier for awhile before returning to the ship.
Dress for dinner this evening was casual, and as we missed lunch we probably over ate at dinner.
The show today was The Comedy and Magic of Chad Chesmark. This was one of the better shows that we saw during the trip.
After the show, Bettyann and I went to the solarium pool and sat in the Jacuzzi until we were tired enough to go to bed.
The Windjammer is buffet style, and has what seems like an endless selection of great dishes. On the 12th deck is a restaurant called the Sea View, which serves sandwiches, and grilled items. Their hamburgers are really good and put Burger King to shame. The nice thing about the Sea View is that they are open late, and we have gotten something to eat from there after midnight on occasion.
As it's a sea day, we spent some of our time on deck taking in a little sun, and reading. There was a belly flop contest, and I caught the tail end of it shortly after lunch at the Sea View restaurant. For lunch we sat at an outside table on the patio and Bettyann had a Ruben sandwich, and I had a tuna fish sub.
Bettyann went to an art auction in the afternoon while I downloaded and edited photographs from my digital still camera. I also was able to find time to copy music from the MP3 disks that I purchased in Acapulco to my laptop. It's hard to find a good source for MP3 Mexican music in the US because I don't know the names of the artists.
Dinner this evening was a formal affair, but no cocktail party beforehand this time, but we survived. The main entrée this evening was lobster and shrimp, and the secondary one was prime rib. They also had ziti, a pasta dish that I love, but was willing to forgo just for tonight. It makes me wonder how many servings of ziti were actually served. At any rate, both Bettyann and I had the lobster, and then had it again. It's sort of like M&M's, you can't just have one, especially when it's free.
Our dining table is always the last to vacate the dining room, and tonight was no exception. We seem to be quite suited for one another, and spend more time in conversation than we do stuffing our faces. It makes the staff nervous because by the time we leave, it's almost time to open for the second seating. After dinner it's usually time to go to the theater and read while saving a seat for Bettyann. The theater generally fills up quickly in the half hour before the show.
Before heading for the theater however, all the folks from our dining table assembled at the main staircase. They were doing professional photography, so we had a group picture taken.
The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers preformed tonight in a show called "Stage to Screen". I wasn't to keen on the show because I didn't feel that their last show was all that great. Everything that I said previously about this group has now been neutralized by there excellent performance tonight. The singing and dancing was superb, and the teamwork, sets, and staging were beyond anything that I could have possibly expected.
After the show we had a night cap before going to the Grand Buffet in the Illusions Dining Room (Main Dinning Room). This was much larger than the Chocolate Buffet, and included colod cuts, breads, and deserts. There were several ice carvings, and everything was displayed beautifully. As we were not hungry, we went to take photographs, after which we retired.
We went ashore about 10:00 or 10:30 AM and started looking for a water taxi to take us around the harbor. We found a glass bottom boat, and took a one-hour tour with six or eight other couples. We were treated to many amazing natural rock formations, sea lions, and beaches. The coves made up places where seawater became trapped, and was rushed through narrow gorges, coming out on the other side. We were able to approach from both directions by boat because the coastline created a small crescent shaped peninsula.
There was also a window rock, which was approachable from either side by boat as well. We were told that once every six years, there was a period of time when, at low tide, the sandy bottom of the window could be observed. This wasn't that particular period of time however, but the formations were very spectacular anyway. The Sea lions played in the water around the rocks some of the time, but mostly stayed on the rocks either sleeping or barking their complaints at the many tourist boats that populated the area.
This area was also popular for snorkeling, and scuba activities. One of the beaches we were shown was called Lovers Beach. This beach went between two rock formations and became another beach on the other side of the peninsula. From the other side it was known as Divorce Beach.
After the tour was over we were dropped off downtown where we did some shopping, and I found a Circle-K, or rather, the Mexican version of one. While Bettyann was shopping in the area, I used this store as a base of operations. It was handy for beverages, and quite reasonable. It wasn't long before it was time to return to the ship for a late lunch, as the ship was departing before supper.
After lunch we were all tired out, so we took a short nap for an hour or so. Before we knew it, it was suppertime. Having assigned dining has some disadvantages, as we couldn't take a later dining time. So we weren’t very hungry tonight. But, by the time we were seated, and the food finally started coming, we were hungrier than before. And in the end we did just fine.
I'm getting along in my book just fine, thanks to holding theater seats. I'm almost a third of the way through The Last Juror, but don't think I'll be finishing it on this cruise. The show tonight is the comedian, Marty Allen, and is wife, singer Karon Kate. We have seen them before so knew what to expect. And as we knew it would be, this was one of the better shows aboard.
Today is the Cinco de Mayo holiday in Mexico, although you would never know it shopping in Cabo San Lucas today. There was a Cinco de Mayo party in the Vortex Disco beginning at 10:00 PM, but we retired shortly after the show.
The cruise is winding down, and there's now talk about packing, customs, departing, tips, and things of that nature. This ship is going to go back to Mexico for it's next set of passengers, then head for the Hawaiian Islands.
We both went to a class on stage stuff. Today was the last class of four, all of which we missed. The subject was costumes, and quick changing between acts. This was all very interesting and informative and we enjoyed it quite a bit.
There was a pool deck barbeque planned for lunch today, however, due to cold weather it was moved to the Windjammer café instead. It was good, but the lines were long, and it lacked the festive atmosphere of the pool deck with its Latin band. Of course the Windjammer had its normal buffet running at the same time, so the food selection was obscenely plentiful, and as always, exceptionally good.
It turned out to be a cold day today; even at 2:00 PM it's only 63°. So us folks from Arizona and Southern California are all bundled up, and getting strange looks from the Canadians, and Europeans.
Bettyann had an afternoon art auction to attend, the last one for this cruise. She has a chance to win a big drawing, but the odds were quite high against her. It would have been nice though. We need to be packed today, and have our bags out by 11:00 PM for pick-up. We will most likely worry about all of that after the evening show.
The farewell dinner was excellent as usual, and the staff sang farewell songs to everyone. They do that twice, once at our seating, and then again at the late seating. This being the last day of the cruise, all the tips were dispensed to the staff for the 14 days (typically tips are not given, or expected until the end of the cruise). I’ve been on a few cruises, and I’ll have to admit that this staff did a great job of pampering everyone. If you could bottle that attitude, and sell it as customer service, you’d make a fortune.
After dinner, we followed our usual routine and went to the show. It was a bit shorter than the others as there was important information to be passed on about customs, and immigration. They wanted the ship cleared by 10:30 AM because they were doing a Hawaiian cruise originating in Mexico the following day.
Naturally we packed after the show, and that took a little while. We were over ready for bed after that task was completed so we went to bed.
We had our last breakfast, and then waited for our departure color to be called. Luggage is color coded, and departures are by color, when the luggage is off loaded, otherwise the terminal would be a mess. We finally departed, and were picked up by Bob at about 10:00 AM. We went to my sister’s home for a short visit, and then left for our home in Arizona. We stopped at our daughters house because our grand daughter was dressed, and going to the prom. We also ran a slide show of all the photos, and that took a few hours. We finally made it to the front door about 9:00 PM.
Just in time too, because then Mothers Day happened, followed by Back to Work Day.
This was a terrific vacation, and I would recommend a Panama Canal cruise to anyone that might be considering a Caribbean cruise, or is on the fence about doing the Panama Canal.