We previously sailed with Variety Galileo in Greece, had such a good time we repeated for Panama and Costa Rica. To start at the beginning, they used to embark at Shelter Island, a somewhat picturesque location but now its Colon which is industrial and nothing to look at. Orientation and life boat drill took three hours which was a little tiring after traveling. Half the reason we took this trip was to see the San Blas Islands, with a beach barbecue and swimming. It was disappointing to learn that part of the trip would be cancelled due to high winds. Of course, safety of the passengers and ship is foremost but it should be considered, because this is a small ship, you may not be going where you think you will. Instead we went to Portobello for two nights instead of one. It was a ten mile trip instead of 64 miles but its safe to say not many had the ability to sleep and some were sea sick due to the rolling of the ship. This ship will roll considerably even at anchor. After the rough ride we had to listen to the anchor chain scraping on the deck above our heads all night due to the wind. Avoid a forward cabin at all costs.
Portobello is a small town with history but can be done in a few hours. To compensate we were taken to an indigenous native village, the Embarra people, after a 1 1/2 hour bus ride and up a river and dugout canoes. It was very interesting but we felt that since the ship travelled 20 miles instead of 168 miles Variety could have done something extra for the passengers considering what they saved in fuel, but everything was priced the same. The first dinner I had something of an altercation with the dining room manager over seating, concerning a tour group. Usually on a small ship like this open seating is the rule, but he was insistent on grouping them together which was annoying because we were happily mixing at that point. When I mentioned it should be open seating he angrily threw up his hands and said"What can I do?" Later, even the tour group told him they were adults and were perfectly capable deciding where to sit. The food is good but nothing memorable. The dining room service was excellent. Twice complimentary drinks were served but contained so little alcohol you could have had them for breakfast. . We really enjoyed the swimming off the boat in Greece but only one opportunity on this cruise and all the stops involved donning life jackets and using Zodiacs, where in Greece the boat always docked. You could walk on and off at will and slept well. It has to be mentioned that when you don't sleep well the next day you are not up to par. We had one snorkeling opportunity at a small island also.The Panama canal was very interesting but traverse mainly at night, so you can see the locks which are lighted but none of the surrounding country. Bow thruster noise sounded like it was next to your head here. Another night of little sleep. Why the thruster was necessary I can't figure out since four locomotives kept the ship centered in the canal.
The Osa peninsula trip is described as incredible and spectacular wildlife, but all we saw was some monkeys and large numbers of ants. We did the zip line in Quepos and found it adventurous but challenging remembering the rules and staying safe. The descriptions of the excursions are really florid and overboard. Manuel Antonio was better for wildlife. Orientations and instruction take up a lot of time and some days you have to rise pretty early to eat breakfast, get orientated and zodiaced.
Passengers were generally between 60 and 70 years of age and sociable. Service personnel from the captain on down to the maids did everything they could to be friendly and helpful, except for the mentioned dining room manager. I was interested in taking the Seychelles trip with Variety but won't now because i don't want to travel halfway around the world to find out we may be going to some african village instead because of the weather. That's the name of the game with small ships, Variety cannot control the weather, I know, but choices have to be made for value.
Cabin was well thought out with a nice bath and shower, but anchor noise and bow thruster noise will wreck your sleep. Our cabin was forward and movement was very pronounced in choppy weather.